An environmental group is celebrating after planning inspectors upheld a decision to refuse plans to turn a beauty spot into a glamping site.

In August last year, North Northamptonshire Council planning officers refused the change of use of a meadow next to Fineshade Woods for 15 glamping pods and camping pitches.

The meadow is next to the 18th-century Grade II-listed Top Lodge farmhouse, owned by the Forestry Commission.

The meadow site and the Grade II-listed Top Lodge farmhouse

Applicant Donna Barney, a director of Countrywide Park Homes, lodged an appeal against the decision in February, but last Wednesday the appeal was dismissed.

“We are pleased that the inspector has done such a thorough and comprehensive rejection of the appeal on all four counts,” said Barrie Galpin, of Friends of Fineshade.

“We were also very grateful with the way the North Northamptonshire Council planning officer dealt with it.

“Even to the extent of saying that if the appeal was approved there should be 32 conditions attached which is unheard of.”

The original plans submitted by Countrywide Park Homes in March 2021. Image: RPS (59066174)
The original plans submitted by Countrywide Park Homes in March 2021. Image: RPS (59066174)

After the appeal, the Friends launched a petition which drew 579 signatures.

“We were particularly interested to see that the weight of third party opinion was such a factor in dismissing it in a couple of incidences,” Barrie added.

“The response we received was very good. We had lots of local people, and from further afield, get really involved.”

The appeal was dismissed because of the plan’s effect on the character and appearance of the area and the listed farmhouse, as well as its compatibility with nature conservation and access.

Inspector Simon Dean said current leisure provision near Top Lodge was visually ‘very well-contained’ and did not harm habitats.

But the plans were ‘likely to cause unacceptable harm’ to the area’s character and appearance, and would disturb species. He concluded that the harm to the heritage asset would outweigh ‘modest’ potential economic benefits, while proposed access would not be ‘safe or convenient’.

“I therefore find that the modest benefits of the proposal would be significantly and demonstrably outweighed by the harms and adverse impacts I have found,” he said.

Campaigners hope this will end the long-running series of applications for the site.

In September 2014, plans for 30 glamping pods were withdrawn, as was an application for a tented campsite eight months later, and a timber lodge holiday park in December 2018.

published 2022-09-08 13:49:33