A bid to set up a timber business in ‘tranquil’ ancient woodland has been approved despite local concerns over the noise and harm to nature it could cause.
Though a protected ancient, it had been previously planted with non-native timber trees which are now reaching maturity. A felling licence allows for up to 3,000 tonnes of timber to be harvested by July 2028.
A statement with Warmhill and Hengrove Woodland’s application said the plan “will lead to a reduction in the amount of timber extracted” compared with the current arrangement, by which timber is taken off-site for processing elsewhere.
The council’s case officer Simon Rowles concluded it would be “a sustainable form of development” with “no loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats”.
The council’s environmental health officer had previously said that noise from the site was “unlikely to be obtrusive” given the distance of the nearest houses.
But nearby resident Lindsay McKenna, who was among a group demonstrating with placards during committee members’ site visit the previous day, told the meeting: “Deepdean is a tranquil, nature-rich valley enjoyed by residents and tourists, including adjacent holiday businesses whose offering is dependent on that tranquillity. The industrial activity will cut through this.”
Urging colleagues to refuse, Coun William Wilding (Independents for Herefordshire, Penyard), standing in for Kerne Bridge ward councillor Yolande Watson, said the new business would operate year-round, marking a “major increase in human activity”.
“It should be where it is at the moment, in industrial units in Ross-on-Wye and Hereford, not moved to one of our precious wildlife habitats,” he said.
Warmhill and Hengrove Woodland’s representative Gavin John Hamilton told councillors the plans would be “a million miles away from an industrial unit, and is absolutely no threat to any local business”.
“There has been a very focused campaign by a small number of people, much of it speculating on the change of use,” he said. “It is a low-tech, low-key proposal hidden hundreds of metres inside a working wood.”
Coun Polly Andrews (Lid dem, Widemarsh) said it “seems to be a worthwhile activity” and moved to approve it, which committee members did, with two voting against.
A condition with the permission limits the use of noisy machinery to between 8am and 6pm Monday to Saturday, and requires work other than harvesting to be confined to the shed.