Plans to build nearly 70 holiday cabins in the Mortimer Forest is overhyped

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.

The Forestry Commission is to hold two exhibitions:

  • 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

32 thoughts on “Plans to build nearly 70 holiday cabins in the Mortimer Forest is overhyped

  1. This cannot be allowed to happen. The same thing is being mooted in Northamptonshire, it will roll out everywhere. The tories backed out of selling off our woodlands when they faced a public backlash, so they are doing it through the backdoor. This is greenspace in the public domain, not another commodity for venture capitalist to feast upon. Once private profitmaking like this gets a foothold the forest as we know it is lost.

  2. This is beyond awful. It’s a beautiful forest that should be preserved – not chopped down and ruined for some unnecessary log cabin nonsence. I really hope this is never allowed to go ahead.

  3. What a horrendous idea. The view from the top of High Vinnalls looking west, which is over Juniper Hill and beyond, must be one of the best views in the country. Who wants to be looking at holiday chalets. Apart from that what about the encroachment on the wildlife. I have looked on the Herefordshire planning website but see no sign of this yet but once it is submitted I hope that there is huge opposition to this suggestion. We have plenty of holiday accommodation in Ludlow and the surrounding area so it is not necessary to ruin the forest with building chalets.

  4. The whole idea sounds both impractical and horrid. This use of a unique area of forest is bad enough. Then there is the certainty of pollution of the area caused by motor traffic and the inevitable litter. The cost per night is laughable: so is the staffing level. People so deeply interested in the Mortimer Forest can be staying in nearby Ludlow at a fraction of the cost, and exploring the Forest every day. The drive takes at most ten minutes.
    As it is, when you mention Ludlow to people living on the other side of the country they always answer “Where’s that?”, as I know having so recently lived in London. How anyone will fill these cabins with wealthy holidaymakers, up there in a wooded area some distance away from a town few people 7 has heard of, is hard to envisage.
    We can only hope that Herefordshire sees it all this way too.

  5. its a good thing for the town all industry and opps that generate money for the are should be welcomed with open arms, industry was turned away in the sixties and seventies by the few elite of the town, so the town suffered the lack of local work and revenue to the shops so i say welcome one and all

    1. Firstly, self-catering accommodation generates little money for its locality (ask the Scottish Islands!) Tesco are the only people who gain. This is a falsehood on which this appalling development should not be carried. However, that is not the issue here. Build a thousand holiday cabins around the town, just not within the boundaries of the forest. The forest is not space for development. It is an essential public green space. We have important natural habitats here, that should not be damaged for quick profit (and by profit I mean for the investors, not the locals.)

  6. “Forest Holidays will pay £200,000 a year towards management of the forest.”

    Nope. The document says this:

    “Annual rental income _in excess_ of £200 K per year paid to the Forestry Commission”

    Is “income” turnover, or after expenses (inc whatever siphoned off to shareholders)?

    1. I’ll clarify when I meet Forest Holidays but I think this is ground rent paid to the Commission, so it is not related to profit.

  7. This portion of the forest should remain as Forrest and be further developed as a natural woodland. Bird and small mammal populations are under stress due to development and being squeezed out. This is about to happen right under our noses. Numbers are depleting as habitat is taken over by man.
    I live less than a mile from this proposed scheme and I am dead against it.
    One of the great assets of where I live is the sence of place. Not only is it a place of natural beauty it has fantastic night skies. The light pollution is minimal offering relatively clear night skies.
    Stop this project please.

  8. It needs to be in a controlled area at sensible prices to attract visitors and a much needed boost to the economy of the area.
    Mortimer Forest is a largely commercial enterprise for growing conifers managed by a cash strapped Forestry Commission who would also benefit.
    I am sure there is room for some development in this area but properly managed.

  9. This site is home to adders and slow worms, both of which are protected under UK law.
    From the UK.gov website:
    ‘Survey reports and mitigation plans are required for development projects that could affect protected species, as part of getting planning permission or a mitigation licence. Surveys need to show whether protected species are present in the area or nearby, and how they use the site. Mitigation plans show how you’ll avoid, reduce or manage any negative effects to protected species.’ [https://www.gov.uk/guidance/reptiles-protection-surveys-and-licences]
    I noticed an adder survey in this area last year but don’t know whether it was in aid of this proposed development. I’d like to see the ecological impact assessment report which I believe would be required for the planning application.

  10. I notice the emphasis is placed on the economy of course. These are people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing. To even think of destroying part of this wonderful natural resource is beyond vandalism. No one can surely believe the impact on the rest of the forest will be minimal? What about the cars coming and going to the holiday chalets? The forest has rare plants, insects, birds and butterflies all of which will be impacted. This is an example of the trend in this country to see something beautiful and want to make money out of it.

  11. Why are the majority of Ludlow residents so against change? It seems that there are a lot of ‘knee jerk’ reactions going on here, before people have studied the plans in detail or visited the exhibitions. I would like to throw in just a few responses to what I have read so far, and a few comments of my own:

    Juniper Hill covers less than 6% of Mortimer Forest and was mainly hedged fields until the 1980s when it was planted with conifers. The area has recently been cleared following the 2014 storms. How many of the complainers have walked the area recently?

    The plans include woodland and habitat enhancement – it’s not all about destruction!

    I see mention of ‘inevitable litter’ – why inevitable? How many of you leave litter when you go on holiday?

    I don’t see how this is going to ‘spiral into Centre Parcs for Ludlow’ – I see no mention in the plans for a huge swimming dome, gym or multiple restaurants.

    As for self-catering ‘generating little money for the locality’ – this is total nonsense. We have been running a self-catering business in Ludlow since 2002 and have 3 properties that we let out. I speak from experience. People come to Ludlow all year round and return year on year. They love the local markets, the independent shops and the choice of places to eat out. Our Visitor Books are proof that Tesco aren’t the only ones to gain.

    I could go on, but I urge everyone to be more open minded – read the plans, go to the exhibitions & ask questions before simply condemning anything new and innovative. This town needs more investment, new ideas and job opportunities – not just to be preserved in aspic. Change is not always bad!

  12. I wonder if JB has ever walked to the top of High Vinnalls and seen the wonderful view from there which will be so spoilt by the log cabins. Yes I have walked in this area often and feel that it should not be destroyed. The job opportunities will only be for lower paid workers cleaning out the cabins. What Ludlow needs are decent jobs not just jobs for people on minimum wage.

    1. Of course I’ve walked to the top of High Vinnalls & I know all the routes quite well – why would anyone who doesn’t use the forest regularly even comment on this matter? Why assume that the view will be ‘destroyed’? Again, I suggest people remain open minded until they have visited the exhibitions and had the chance to voice their concerns and questions to the Forestry representatives. No point in getting hysterical until you know all the facts.
      True, many of the jobs will be for servicing the accommodation but there’s no shame in honest hard work & I’m sure there are plenty of people who would welcome the opportunity for part-time work. FE may not consider these to be ‘decent’ jobs, but they are still jobs after all!

  13. This is a much bigger argument than a couple of cleaning jobs and revenue for the locality. This is about the ideology of our national forests. We are the second least forested Country in Europe thanks to a relentless process of destruction in the 20th century. The precious small amount of forested area left in the UK needs to be managed and protected, yes the forestry commission made huge errors in the mid century with conifer plantations but their work is much more sympathetic now. The government attempted to sell the forests off in 2010, to a huge public backlash, this is just a backdoor way of selling them. Really we should not be discussing this in terms of local jobs (though how many jobs can self catering cabins really create??) and revenue (if 70 cabins really would be beneficial then create a space for them somewhere else) but about the wider issue of what our forests are for. This has already been mooted in Northamptonshire, and before the year is out this kind of development will be proposed in every forest in the country, with London’s venture capitalists rubbing their hands. Once we open the door to our forests being fair-game for development and profiteering it will not stop. Maybe there won’t be financial gain in Mortimer forest being further developed beyond this, but think of the forest land in more commercially viable places, they won’t stop at 70. This development must be stopped for the sake of our forests across the Country, this isn’t about nimbyism, or local jobs. It is about the ideology of our national forests. What they are for and what they represent. This is a very big line in the sand that is trying to be crossed.

    1. I agree, Jeff, this is to be resisted and let’s start with Mortimer Forest. We need to rally the opposition and then perhaps there’s a hope this vandalism will not spread across the country and reduce the forests even further.

  14. I suspect that JB doesn’t live just below the projected development.

    The building of this development will result in light pollution where there is none currently. When I step outside at night, the view of the night sky is spectacular on even a moderately clear night. There is currently absolutely no artificial light visible where I live and this will inevitably cease to be.

    The development will also frighten away the wildlife – One of the most precious regular sights early in the morning and late evening, is the deer which come down out of the forest. Those will disappear – It’s inevitable. On top of that, the development will disturb the buzzards which we see every day, the owls we hear at night, and all the other wildlife which doesn’t make itself so well known.

    Also, the location of the chalets will mean that several of the local properties which currently enjoy the peace an quiet and the ability to move about without being overlooked, will lose that level of privacy and we will not be able to sit out in our gardens without the fear of being watched by people from the cabins.

    With respect to JB’s comment about litter – an increase is inevitable – we already see regular accumulations of litter, such as fast food containers and drink cans, which have been thrown out of passing cars. The local residents arrange regular litter picking because the local council does not do so. It is therefore inevitable that, with the increase in people travelling to and from the site, there will be an increase in the level of litter.

    I do not believe a ‘true’ environmental impact review has been carried out. There are so many potential impacts which cannot have been objectively assessed. For instance, the introduction of the infrastructure required to support these chalets (e.g. water, sewage, electricity etc.). Many of the local properties are not on mains water, but rely upon local deep wells. If the development aims to rely upon those same sources, it will put an unsustainable load upon the local water sources.

    There are just so many reasons why this development must not proceed.

  15. The majority of these reactions could have been predicted – there are moments when I wonder why we are not still living in caves – albeit very tasteful caves. I know this isn’t a development by CenterParcs – but I wonder how many of the negative commentators have been/ seen let alone stayed in one. Last year with grandchildren we stayed in CP near Bedford, we saw hares, a quail family greeted us every morning as they walked past our lodge and many children were able to experience the forest safely. I do find this reaction depressing if predictable.

  16. It is imperative to see this proposal in a national context.Never before has our countryside been under so much pressure from development.Some necessary, some not.To propose such a scheme in what I like to think of as deep countryside,shows a contempt for our natural heritage.Its always the same, limited short term financial gain at all our expense,even those who don’t know it yet.

  17. I don’t go to places like CenterParcs because I don’t agree with them – i.e. my comments are not based upon Nimbyism.

    I live in the countryside because I want to live there and I respect the environment and wildlife and try not to disturb it.

    Duncan is also right to point out that this is yet another bite out of the lungs of the country – although it goes even wider than that, because throughout the world, forests and countryside are under constant attack from humans, who are destroying it for financial gain and in denial about the consequences to us all.

    1. Lovely that you and I are able to live in the countryside. Lovely too that, thanks to places like CenterParcs, families who do not have that option can spend time in quiet, car-free environments and get far closer to the natural world than they might otherwise have the opportunity to. It might also encourage visitors of all ages to appreciate the natural environment…….

  18. J R People do not need to spend close on £2000 a week to enjoy the countryside. They can stay in Ludlow or camp nearby, park in one of three car parks and walk into the forest.
    Center Parks and Forest Holidays are not about giving people opportunities, they are about creating a privatised playground for the rich that they can profit from at the expense of the environment, so please, let’s get real here.

    1. They can, of course, choose to do as you suggest but entertaining four under 7’s was easier with more options in the evenings and when it rained. It is a matter of choices and the area under discussion is not the entire forest by any stretch of the imagination
      I remember being reprimanded when, as a stroppy fifteen year old I whinged about a vast caravan park complete with pool, social club and games area. “ It’s a holiday for some people” I was told.
      I’d be more in sympathy with the opposition to the plans if every time anything is suggested to change the area in any way at all there weren’t the predictable howls of protest.

  19. It’s clear that JR isn’t going to understand that this is about the removal of rare habitat for numerous species and destruction of the environment. ‘not the entire forest’ is a spurious argument – every inch is important – especially in such a small island as ours, where so much of the countryside has been encroached upon for entertainment and financial gain…

    1. It was only a matter of time before “small island” came into the argument ….. where have I heard that before?

      There comes a time to walk away from this sort of discussion, and this is it.

    1. Sorry Edward but you really need to be called out here. There is no ‘rare habitat for numerous species’. It’s a field that the Forestry Commission planted with conifers – ask a naturalist what value they put on it…and while you’re about it ask them what they like to see instead. I’d wager they’ll say something like ‘replace the trees with native varieties’. From what I’ve read that appears to be what the forest holidays are proposing. As for “a bite out of the lungs of the country” – my understanding is they want to retain trees -not much of a forest holiday if they didn’t!

  20. Please go to the exhibitions this week everyone. It will give us all the chance to look at the plans and ask questions of the Forestry personnel. This is the best opportunity to voice your concerns or give your support and should be far more informative than this message board.

    When someone writes:
    “There is currently absolutely no artificial light visible where I live and this will inevitably cease to be.”
    ……and then the same person, in another comment:
    “my comments are not based upon Nimbyism”……….I do wonder!!

  21. There has been a good and lively debate on this. Thanks. I have now drawn this thread to a close and no more comments are allowed on this post. I’ll post again midweek after the exhibitions and the discussion can resume.

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