NINEWELLS CONSERVATION GROUP
(Not For Publication Before 28th January 2005)
Following the decision by Monmouthshire County Council to apply an Article 4 Directive under the Town & Country Planning (General Development Order) 1995 on a section of Ninewells Wood Catbrook, the Ninewells Conservation Group (NCG) members are celebrating a successful conclusion to their six month campaign to ensure that any sub division and resale of the woodland will be subject to planning control.
NCG Chairman, Lt Col (Ret'd) Brian Ruddy said:
“We congratulate Monmouthshire County Council on its initiative and courage in issuing an Article 4 Directive removing permitted development rights on this important section of woodland within the Wye Valley AONB. The Council's action is without precedent in Wales, and represents a major step forward for the protection of woodland throughout the County and across the whole of the Principality. We acknowledge that the Council's decision will need to be ratified by the Assembly for Wales at some point over the next six months, but we are confident that this is a case of; - where Monmouthshire leads the Assembly will follow!”
Bill Butler, NCG's Secretary, added:
“Naturally we are delighted. The Council's decision shows that the democratic process can work quickly if ordinary people like ourselves get together and present a carefully researched and argued case for change. The success of our campaign is also in no small part due to the efforts of our local MP and AMs. The anomalies and deficiencies we identified in the current legislation were brought to the UK Government's attention with the active support of Huw Edwards MP who successfully obtained an Adjournment Debate on the subject at Westminster. David Davies AM and Mike German AM both helped us to obtain the information we sought from the Assembly for Wales. I am sure I speak for all the residents of the area when I thank them for their efforts on our behalf.”
John Brown who owns and lives in an adjoining section of Ninewells Wood said:
“Over the past 34 years I and my wife have sought to encourage and protect the wildlife here. We hope that this decision means that in future it will become possible to return the whole of Ninewells Wood to its original broadleaved woodland state. In the meantime a great weight has been lifted from our shoulders.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Ninewells Conservation Group Contacts;
Chairman: Lt Col (Ret'd) B A Ruddy. 01600 860596
Secretary: R W Butler 01600 860495
1 NCG's campaign started in July 2004 when it was discovered that part of Ninewells Wood, Catbrook, Monmouthshire had been purchased by a company specialising in buying woodland to sub divide and sell on over the internet for leisure purposes. At a public meeting on 24th August nearly 150 Catbrook area residents unanimously supported the proposal that NCG should seek the application of effective planning control over both this section of woodland and similarly affected woodland elsewhere in the County and the UK.
2 The Group's preliminary research revealed that, although the potential threat posed by sub division and resale of agricultural land had been recognised, the existing planning legislation and government guidance failed to identify a similar threat to coherent conservation and management of woodland. The Group also discovered that that the Welsh Assembly had not issued any guidance on controlling the sub division and resale of agricultural land as had been issued six months earlier to English planning authorities by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM).
3 The MP for Monmouth, Huw Edwards, presented the results of this research to the ODPM and secured an Adjournment Debate at Westminster on 12 October 2004. At the same time the Group, via direct correspondence and through David Davies AM and Mike German AM, was seeking specific assurances from the National Assembly for Wales that it would revise and strengthen its guidance on the enforcement powers available to Welsh Planning Authorities by aligning its guidance to that which had previously been issued by the ODPM.
4 On 14th December 2004 as a direct result of this campaign the Welsh Assembly issued comprehensive guidance asking for swift and pre emptive action by planning authorities to address the practice of sub division and resale of agricultural land and woodland. (See Annex A)
5 Under the Town & Country Planning (General Development Order) 1995 owners of agricultural and forestry land are allowed to carry out certain activities without the need for prior planning permission. For example the owner of a tract of woodland is allowed to create tracks or erect certain temporary structures without the need for specific planning permission provided they are for the purposes of “forestry”. These easements are called “permitted development rights”.
5 Although the Act does not itself define “Forest”, a recent Planning Inspector's decision makes it clear that the term must be regarded as signifying a “large uncultivated tract of land covered with trees and underwood. . . . . . . His decision also states that “Forestry” should be regarded as “the art of planting,tending and managing forests”, and therefore that “forestry operations can only be undertaken on land which is forest”.
6 An Article 4 Directive issued under the T & C (GPDO) 1995 has the effect of suspending all permitted development rights in respect of the land specified in the directive. The net effect of such a directive is therefore that any development activity on that land must be subject to prior planning permission.
7 In early August 2004 the internet site of the new owners of the section of Ninewells Wood was advertising for sale 60 plots of sub divided woodland across the UK with an average size of 7.6 acres. The basis for NCG's opposition to this type of development at the Ninewells site and elsewhere has been that the small size of the woodland plots being sold in this way precludes them from being treated as “forest” for the purposes of obtaining “permitted development rights”. To this was added the concern that Forestry Commission felling licence easements (which would allow a limited degree of timber felling by individual sub plot owners without a licence) are also inappropriate for the proper management and conservation of a large tract of woodland which has been divided in this way.
8 The fact that Ninewells Wood lies within the Wye Valley AONB further supported the Group's calls for action by Monmouthshire C C. Under the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 the Council has a statutory duty to “take all such action as appears to them expedient for the accomplishment of the purpose of conserving and enhancing the natural beauty of the area. . . . .” The issue by the Assembly of revised guidance (a direct result of the NCG campaign) and the precedent set by this Article 4 Directive provides Monmouthshire and all other Welsh Councils with important new powers to protect the Principality's National Parks and AONBs.
Ffôn Tel: 029 2082
Ffacs Fax: 029 2082 5622
Adran yr Amgylchedd, Cynllunio a Chefn Gwlad
Department for Environment, Planning and Countryside
The Chief Planning Officer:
County & County Borough Councils:
The National Park Officer: in Wales
National Park Authorities:
Countryside Council for Wales:
Other Interested Bodies:
Eich cyf .Your ref
Ein cyf . Our ref A PAA 08/09/385 (CL–11- 04)
Dyddiad.Date 14 December 2004
THE SALE OF RURAL PLOTS AND THE LAND USE
The sub-division of agricultural land or woodland into small plots for sale, usually on
the internet, can create problems for communities and planning control. This letter is
to remind Chief Planning Officers of potential remedies already available, and to
emphasise the need to act swiftly and pre-emptively where possible.
The subdivision and sale of small plots of agricultural land and woodland is a matter
of public concern and the issue was most recently debated in the House of
Commons on 12 October 2004.
There are three main aspects to the problem. First, the plots may be divided up with
pegs, stakes or fences, creating an eyesore which detracts from the open
appearance of countryside. Further degradation of amenity may result from the
creation of hard standing or the stationing of caravans. Second, when plots are sold
and no longer in agricultural use this can lead to neglect that is especially difficult to
put right if plot owners cannot be traced. Third, the subdivision of fields and
woodland gives rise to local concern because it can give a false impression that
development of the land is bound to occur, regardless of any planning guidance or
development plan policies for the area.
In the case of woodland, the Forestry Act 1967, as amended, may require a
landowner to obtain a Forestry Commission licence before undertaking certain tree
removal activities. For example, under section 9 of this Act, landowners are required
to obtain a licence to fell trees exceeding 10 centimetres in diameter unless they are
fruit trees, or trees standing in an orchard, garden, churchyard, public open space, or
hedge. Subject to this, owners or their tenants are allowed to fell up to 5 cubic
metres of timber in any quarter without a licence, or sell up to 2 cubic metres in any
quarter without a licence. There are exceptions from the need for a licence to cover
such things as felling where trees are considered to be a nuisance or danger, at the
request of an Electricity Board to protect power lines, or where it is required for the
purpose of development authorised by planning permission granted under the
Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
The Forestry Commission’s Woodland Officers already work closely with local
planning authorities. If they are not already doing so, authorities are advised to liaise
with them over the control of tree felling when they receive a proposal that involves
development in woodland. Contact details within the Commission are given at
POTENTIAL REMEDIES AND STRATEGIES
It is important for local authorities to be ready to take action on a number of fronts.
Monitor the media
The first line of defence is vigilance. Monitoring of prospective plot sales and
advertisements for ‘investment land’ – especially on the internet – may be carried out
by volunteers, or authorities could combine to employ a part-time monitor. The
purpose of such monitoring is to provide local planning authorities with early and
up-to-date information about the scale of the issue in their area.
Article 4 directions
A direction under article 4 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted
Development) Order 1995 [‘the GPDO’] removes whichever permitted development
rights are cited in the direction, necessitating a planning application for works that
normally would not need one. In most cases, an article 4(1) direction does not take
effect until the National Assembly has confirmed it. Article 4(1) directions can be
made to remove permitted development rights which allow fences and other means
of enclosure to be erected, and to prevent the stationing of caravans.
A direction made under article 5(4) can be imposed with immediate effect without
needing the prior consent of the National Assembly, though it needs confirmation by
the National Assembly within six months if it is to remain valid. Although article 5(4)
directions cannot control the stationing of caravans, they can be used to remove the
permitted development rights which allow fences and other means of enclosure to be
Some local authorities have had success with timely 5(4) directions to stop the
physical subdivision of fields before fences or posts go in, and with 4(1) directions to
pre-empt the arrival of caravans.
Section 102 (Discontinuance) Orders
Under section 102 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, a local planning
authority can require the discontinuance of any use of land or the removal of any
building or works. In some cases, use of section 102 can result in payment of
compensation. There is more information about discontinuance orders at Annex 2.
Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Action 1990 provides a local planning
authority with the power to make good the loss of public amenity by requiring the
owner to remedy the condition of the land.
Compulsory Purchase power
The National Assembly would normally expect any statutory procedures intended to
remedy derelict or unsightly land (such as Section 215 notices) to have been taken
as far as they can be before a local authority resorts to Compulsory Purchase. At
that stage, or if those procedures would be ineffective, the use of Compulsory
Purchase powers may be appropriate, particularly where there is a multiplicity of
owners. Local authorities could then explore other post-acquisition strategies, such
as leasing the land for its previous use, having imposed the necessary restrictive
covenants to prevent sub-division.
Enforcement against unlawful change of use of land
In some cases, plots will be set up in such a way, or used in such a way, that it is
plain that no agricultural use would be feasible. If no permission has been granted
for change of use of land (for example, to leisure use), enforcement action could be
Local planning authorities and amenity societies could consider advertising, public
notices or use of the internet to give prospective plot purchasers a more realistic idea
of the true development potential of their plots.
Along with the ODPM, the Assembly Government is considering the feasibility of a
number of ideas, including the possibility of making arrangements to enable an article
4 direction to be served by means of a site notice.
Section 52 of the Planning and Compensation Act 2004 will, when commenced in
Wales, provide for the making of Regulations. These Regulations would enable
authorities to make immediate use of temporary stop notices where existing forms of
enforcement and stop notice would not take effect quickly enough. A temporary stop
notice could be in force for up to 28 days, providing time to serve an enforcement or
stop notice if necessary.
In the meantime, local planning authorities are invited to share any instructive
experiences of coping with rural plot sales – whether a good or bad experience – with
the Planning Division (Planning 2A) (Planning.Division@wales.gsi.gov.uk) and with
K S POWELL
Head of Planning Division
Forestry Commission contacts:
North Wales Area (north of a line along the A44 from Aberystwyth to
Tel: 01824 750492
South Wales Area
Tel: 01873 850060
Section 102 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 enables a local planning
authority to make an order requiring that any use of land shall be discountinued, or
continued subject to conditions (s102(1)(a)), or that any buildings or works shall be
altered or removed (s102(1)(b)). An order may also grant planning permission for
development subject to conditions specified in the order.
An order under s102 can be made if the local planning authority is satisfied that it is
appropriate in the interests of the proper planning of the area (including the interests
of amenity and any present or future detriment to amenity). The decision to make a
discontinuance order must take account of the development plan and other material
Discontinuance orders are made to deal with the use to which land is being put. An
order can discontinue any existing use of land (whether lawful or unlawful) or,
alternatively, can impose conditions on the continuance of a use of land. It may also
require any buildings or works to be altered or removed.
A claim for compensation may be made to the local planning authority under s115 of
the Act if it shown that a person having an interest in the land has suffered damage in
consequence of the order. Other persons may be entitled to compensation in
respect of disturbance in their enjoyment of the land or for carrying out works in
compliance with the order.
Unlike unopposed revocation and modification orders, discontinuance orders need to
be confirmed by the National Assembly. The Assembly has power to modify the
submitted order, including power to grant planning permission or to modify the
order’s grant of planning permission. Before confirming an order, the National
Assembly must provide an opportunity to be heard to any person on whom the order
has been served.
The National Assembly has the power to make a discontinuance order if it appears
expedient for the Assembly to do so (s104). Such an order would have the same
effect as if it had been made by a local planning authority and confirmed by the
National Assembly for Wales