The Ninewells Conservation Group (NCG) was formed on the 23rd August 2004 following active development within the Ninewells Wood.
Some concern had been expressed by locals at the purchase of the wood earlier that year. Although some knew of the new owners activities (the purchasing of woods and resale on the internet of small sections of the purchased woodland) it was not till it became clear on July 17th that they intended to carry out the same operation in Ninewells Wood. On this date employees of the owners installed hard standing at the main entrance to the wood and using paint and stakes marked the wood into subplots.
When residents questioned these employees about there activities, they claimed :-
- Their company purchased woodland in which they created smaller woods.
- Sold these sub plots over the internet to urban families to camp on.
- Did not undertake any work or activity that required planning permission.
Investigation of the owners website revealed prospective purchasers were being advised they could :-
- Camp, walk, climb, make campfires, study wildlife or work the wood.
- Hold family events including reunions, christenings, and bonfire night parties.
- Site steel storage/ shipping containers on their land.
- Park caravans in their wood for up to 28 days per annum (or longer with agreement of their neighbours).
- Make "earth closets" for sanitation purposes, constructed by placing a strong bucket over a hole in the ground.
The local residents considered this advice and the practice of sub dividing the woodland was inconsistent with its charter and location adjoining Cleddon Bog SSSI and sited within the Wye Valley AONB.
- The immediate threat to the beauty and ecology of Ninewells Wood and its surroundings.
- The impossibility of coherent woodland strategy and management throughout the UK if such subdivision is not subject to planing control.
These concerns were raised with Huw Edwards MP, David Davies AM and Mike German AM. All of them acknowledged the importance at both local and national levels, and undertook to pursue matters at Westminster and Cardiff. A public meeting held at Catbrook Memorial Hall on 23rd August 2004, which was attended by approximately 150 residents. This established unanimous support for :-
- The opposition to the proposed development of Ninewells Wood.
- Action to register that opposition and seek effective action and pre-emptive control by the planning authorities.
From this the NCG drew up a set of Objectives.
During September 2004 the NCG researches current legislation and planning practice.
This revealed that:
- In April 2004 The office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) issued guidance to all Engish planning authorities calling for “Swift and pre-emtive action” against sub plotting and resale of agricultural land. The guidance called for the use of Article 4 wherever appropriate.
- Although this guidance was passed to the Welsh Assembly, the Assembly had not issued it to Welsh Planning Authorities. As a result all Welsh planning Authorities were working to guidance dating from 1995, which classified Article 4 as an action of “last resort”.
- The ODPM is unaware that sub plotting is also occurring in woodland.
- Huw Edwards MP secures an Adjournment Debate at Westminster.
- NCG prepares a briefing report for Huw Edwards, a copy of which is passed to the appropriate Minister
Adjournment debate held at Westminster on October 12th 2004. Three members of the NCG attended and met the Minister informally. For full details go to the news pages.
On October 13th the Welsh Assembly confirms in writting to the NCG that they intended to issue a letter similar to that issued in England.
The MCC central area meeting was held at Llandogo on October 20 2004.. The NCG Chairman addressed the meeting. All Councillors and officers present are given a copy of the NCG research report and a copy of the letter from the Welsh Assembly.
During November 2004 the NCG continue to lobby MCC. The campaign is featured on the BBC “Politics Show”. See news article for details. MCC officers informally confirm that they are preparing to put the case for an Article 4 to Council with or without guidance from the Assembly. NCG provides MCC with specimen documents and planning decisions used elsewhere in the UK to issue Article 4 Directives.
The Welsh Assembly writes to all its planning authorities on 14 December 2004 calling for “swift and pre-emptive action” to control the sub plotting of both agricultural land and woodland. A copy of the letter is available in the news pages.
On January 28 the MCC cabinet’s decision to apply an Article 4 to Ninewells wood is confirmed and inplemented.
March 2005 NCG issues new flyer to up date local residents and supporters. A copy of the flyer can be viewed here.