Petition to stop Mortimer Forest development signed by 3,000
A petition against plans to build 68 holiday chalets on forestry land has attracted more than 3,000 signatures.
Forest Holidays, which is part-owned by the Forestry Commission and a group of venture capitalists, wants to build the luxury wooden homes and tree houses, which come complete with outdoor hot tubs, at Juniper Hill, in the Mortimer Forest.
The forest is home to the only herd of long-haired deer in the world and is a favourite destination for walkers and nature lovers.
Campaigners claim the development, which is currently being considered by Herefordshire Council’s planning department, would ruin the area and lead to a loss of tranquillity.
Colin Richards, a spokesman for Save Mortimer Forest campaign group and a former conservation officer for Shropshire Council, said: “The situation is there has become a growing awareness surrounding this proposal.
"The petition has led to people using the area more and more.
"The area is being threatened and people are flocking to come to and see it for themselves.
“We have a unique window on old England and that’s because it is very distinct.
“It does not have all the types of things that other areas of the country have.
“People have come together to protest as they do not want the relationship between the forest and the nearby area to be compromised by a holiday park owned by venture capitalists.
“It is something that does not need to happen. If this area is going to be compromised just for a profit making venture for a company from the other end of the country, it adds further insult to the situation.”
The group recently welcomed the news Herefordshire Council would have the environmental impact of the proposals assessed.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) Shropshire branch has requested Shropshire Council and Ludlow Town Council be included in discussions.
Andy Boddington, councillor for Ludlow, said increased traffic to the holiday chalets would damage surrounding lanes and towns.
Forest Holiday currently has 10 holiday parks nationwide.
A petition set up on 38 degrees to Environment Secretary Michael Gove, to halt the privatisation of the country’s forests by Forest Holidays, has been signed by more than 85,000 people.
Libby Burke, communications manager at the Forestry Commission said: "In introducing proposals for Mortimer Forest, it has become apparent that a large amount of incorrect information and opinion is being circulated and shared locally, online and with the media.
"We are aware of a petition which similarly is not based on the full facts. The entire Public Forest Estate including Mortimer Forest is held in trust for the nation and is owned by the public, cared for and controlled by the Forestry Commission.
"As landlord the Forestry Commission tightly controls what happens in the forest by legal agreements. Our partnership with Forest Holidays or other commercial partners does not affect this."