The Forestry Commission has published plans for “new opportunities” in the Mortimer Forest to the south of the town. It promises “benefits for day and overnight visitors, including new and improved paths, trails, natural play, habitat enhancement and a viewpoint for all to enjoy.” That will include 68 holiday chalets in the heart of the forest and a £2.8 million boost to the local economy. The case for the development is overstated.
The development will be on Juniper Hill. It will be paid for and run by Forest Holidays, the commercial partner of the publicly owned Forestry Commission. Forest Holidays will pay £200,000 a year towards management of the forest.
On first reading, the headlines from this proposal look good. Forest Holidays claim that it will generate £2.8 million a year for the local economy. That’s an income of around £35,000 for each and every log cabin – year in year out. That’s impressive and would mean that the capital cost is likely to paid off in just a few years.
The price of these cabins will be high. A Forest Holiday chalet for two in Beddgelert this coming June is quoted at nearly £1,800 a week.
The development, we are told, will create 43 full time equivalent (FTE) jobs working on the holiday scheme. Few people will want to stop in the heart of the forest in mid-winter. So it seems there will be more than one person employed for every property in this forest development during the summer. Alarm bells should ring here –that’s a staff to bed ratio that even top flight hotels will struggle to match. And I don’t think you get room service in a wooden chalet in a forest, no matter that people are paying nearly £250 a night for a room. They will get be a bed, heating and tarmac on which to park their car. WiFi and TV will be extra. [Update: the developer has confirmed there will be no tarmac except for High Vinnals car park, which will be tarmacked over.]
Another claim is that 47 FTE jobs will be created in the local economy. Another fifty jobs in our town must be good news, surely?
If only these figures didn’t look like they are plucked out of the air. This is a very large development but the claims that it will create 90 jobs, plus 50 during development, do not stack up. This is not a 500 bedroom hotel. It is wooden cabins in the middle of a forest designed for independent holidays.
The development will be three and a half miles from Ludford bridge. This means that a lot of the holidaymakers will drive into town, adding to parking pressure.
These proposals have been in the pipeline for some while. They date from at least 2014, not long after environment secretary Caroline Spelman abandoned her plans to sell much of the public forest estate.
I have written to the Forestry Commission asking why Ludlow councillors have not been informed of the proposals. The area of development is in Herefordshire, so we have not heard of it through the usual planning channels. Ludlow is the nearest town and most of the visitors to the forest come from Ludlow and its hinterland. It is discourteous – to say the least – that local councillors have been kept out of the loop. However, we will not have any formal say in the development because it is not in Shropshire.
I have no objection to building accommodation in the Mortimer Forest. But this proposal is far to big for our small town. I fear that this might become another Centre Parcs.
- Tuesday 27 February: 10am-12pm, 2-4pm and 6-8pm at Wigmore Village Hall,HR6 9UW
- Wednesday 28th February: 10am-12pm, 2-4pm and 6-8pm at Ludlow Mascall Centre (Clun Room), SY8 1RZ