Planning for Sustainable Woodlands


Planning for Sustainable Woodlands

Submitted by Russ on Wed, 02/04/2009 – 23:22

Planning for Sustainable Woodlands

A submission to the Forestry Forum regarding reform of the Town and Country Planning system to implement ‘A New Focus for England’s Woodlands’,

the England Forestry Strategy

A report produced by Lucy Nichol, Simon Fairlie, Ben Law and Russell Rowley – June 2000


Working Party


Issues Concerning Planning and Sustainable Woodland Management

Annex I – examples of sustainable woodland management in operation

Annex 2 – Two extracts from ‘Defining Rural Sustainability’

Working Party

This report has been produced by a working party which was set up in August 1999 to put forward to the Forestry Forum the views of the small woods and coppice workers sector.

The report describes current problems resulting from planning controls, and makes recommendations for reform.

The working party comprises:

  • Lucy Nichol, PhD student, School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University
  • Simon Fairlie, forest worker, author of ‘Low Impact Development’ and founder     of Chapter 7
  • Benjamin Law, coppice worker, West Sussex
  • Russell Rowley, chief executive, National Small Woods Association

The following organisations support the broad aims of this document and urge the government to consider its recommendations:

  • The National Small Woods Association
  • Chapter Seven
  • The Woodland Trust
  • The Marches Greenwood Network
  • Forestry Contracting Association
  • British Horse Loggers Specialist Group
  • British Charcoal and Coppice Group
  • The Bioregional Charcoal Company
  • Association of Pole- Lathe Turners
  • The New Woodmanship Trust
  • Common Ground
  • Berks, Bucks and Oxon Greenwood Network
  • Green Light Trust
  • Tree Spirit
  • SEEDS: Slough Environmental Education Development Service
  • Surrey and Sussex Coppice Group
  • Dorset Coppice Group
  • Coppice Association North West
  • Kentish Cobnuts Association
  • Clun Valley Alder Charcoal Project
  • Greater Exmoor Initiative
  • Clissett Trust

Thanks to all the individuals and organisations who responded to the consultation draft of this report and gave us their support.



Planning controls over forestry are out of date and do not reflect the vision of sustainable multi-purpose forestry now held by the government and its agencies.

Planning policies are needed which integrate economic and social aims with conservation objectives for wildlife, landscape and the environment, to deliver woodland that enhances local distinctiveness and promotes a sustainable social and economic fabric on the land.

Issues concerning planning and sustainable woodland management

There are three main areas for planning policy reform:

1) Definition of Forestry

Forestry is not defined in planning law. The Town and Country Planning Act 1990 section 55 states that ‘the use of any land for the purposes of agriculture or forestry (including afforestation) and the use for any of those purposes of any building occupied together with land so used’ is not categorised as development, and is outside planning control. Section 336 of the same Act defines agriculture, giving a list of activities which are included1. However, there is no corresponding definition of forestry, and this is leading to confusion about the scope of activities that need planning permission. For example, a local planner at a recent appeal2 argued that forestry was just ‘the growing a utilisable crop’3. This very narrow approach would rule out even such basic forestry operations as felling. A broad definition bringing in planting, management, felling, small scale low intensity processing and retailing of timber and timber products would remove doubt and assist in the sustainable management of woodlands.

The England Forestry Strategy calls for multi purpose woodlands. In his forward to the document Elliot Morley calls for ‘a great variety of well- managed woodlands’ including ‘woodlands for timber production to strengthen local economies’ and woods for recreational use and biodiversity protection. Forestry is no longer just about single purpose plantations, and this should be reflected in planning law and planning policies.


That a definition of forestry is devised, taking in a broad spectrum of woodland uses, forestry operations and small scale processing. The definition in the Charter of the Institute of Chartered Foresters could provide a useful starting point: ‘”forestry” shall include all aspects of the science, economics, conservation, amenity and art of establishing, cultivating, protecting, managing, harvesting and marketing of forests, woodlands, trees, timber and wood’.

2) Ancillary u ses

Planning controls over agriculture allow a range of processing activities of farm produce as ancillary and therefore requiring no planning permission. However, the situation for forestry operations is unclear. There are a number of products which working woodlands can provide, such as sawn timber, fencing, firewood, biomass energy, charcoal, furniture, baskets, thatching materials, brushwood, faggots, chestnuts, forest honey, saps, fibres and fruit. However, one appeal inspector stated that the only activities ancillary to forestry were the rough processing of planks and poles.4

There does not seem to be any agreement about whether on-site processing, charcoal burning etc. are ancillary uses (which would not require planning permission) or separate industrial uses (which would). Hence the discrepancies in appeal decisions. There needs to be clarification and firm support for value adding in England’s woods.

The objective of establishing a sustainable and diverse forestry sector has been accepted at both national and international policy levels. Internationally the ‘Agenda 21’ document advocates ‘promoting small-scale forest-based enterprise for supporting rural development and local entrepreneurship’. Nationally the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme (UKWAS) agreed in June 1999 enables UK wood producers to certify their products as environmentally friendly, and use the FSC logo. Around 75% of Britain’s woodlands are likely to be certified by the end of the year, including the Forestry Commission’s 800 000 hectare public forest estate. The UKWAS was designed to comply with the international standards in Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship laid down by the Forest Stewardship Council. These principles include local processing of the forest’s diversity of products to strengthen and diversify the local economy, and avoiding dependence on a single forest product (principle 5). This makes it essential that regulations like planning are assessed to test whether they are acting as barriers to those trying to deliver sustainable forest management as defined by the Forest Stewardship Council and adopted by the government.

It is not only the owners and managers of large forest estates who will deliver the vision of FSC accredited sustainable forestry for the UK. Around half the broadleaved woodlands in Britain are small (under 10 hectares). Of these there are approximately 175 000 hectares of derelict woods which have had little or no management for over 30 years (National Small Woods Association). A working woodland provides benefits for wildlife as well as livelihoods for rural workers. ‘All woods need management to thriv e and it is the working woodland that has the best chance of survival’ (National Small Woods Association). Woodlands do not have to be large to support an income; even small woods can be profitable if products are processed and value is added. Wood can be sorted and sold as firewood and other wood fuel such as kindling, woodchip or compressed brash. It can be made into furniture or charcoal, restoring traditional skills such as charcoal burning and the use of pole lathes. Food stuffs such as berries, chestnuts and forest honey can be harvested seasonally from woodlands, and year round income can be provided from cultivating edible fungi such as shiitake, which can generate considerable income throughout the year from a small area of woodland.

However in planning it is unclear whether these uses are ancillary to forestry or industrial processes. If they are industrial then all charcoal burners should have planning permission, which they do not and never have had. If they are ancillary uses then sheds and workshops in which to do them should be permitted development.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that nowadays woodland is regarded as a recreational and educational asset for the nation. Woodland owners are encouraged to open their woods to the public and some grants are only given on condition that the y do so. Recreational and educational pursuits are increasingly becoming an integral part of woodland management regimes. According to Tony Phillips, Chairman of the National Small Woods Association, ‘Recreation and educational use are incidental to woodlands, and the generation of short-term income from such activities is one of the mainstays to underwrite the long-term growing of timber crops’, (in the case of rearing game for shooting, this has been the case for many years). Such activities are analogous to the farm diversification outlined in paragraphs 1.7 and 3.4 of PPG 7. However they are often particularly crucial for woodland management because the crop cycle is so long term, and because pressures for public access to woodland are greater than for public access to cropped farmland.


a) This issue could be cleared up by providing a broad ranging definition of forestry (see page 2) and/ or by amending the General Permitted Development Order Schedule 2 Part 7 (Forestry) so that specified activities of low environmental impact are identified as ‘permitted development’. This would have the advantages of being specific about the activities and normally allowing them to take place without the need for planning permission, but also allowing local planning authorities to req uire the submission of planning applications through the making of Article 4 Directions removing the permitted development rights where appropriate, or through the extension of the prior notification procedure.

b) Planning Policy Guidance could be amended to include words of support for value adding, local wood products and the provision of appropriate educational and recreational facilities, so that if planning permission were to be required, Local Authorities would be guided to approve it. This would bring forestry in line with agriculture by mirroring the support that exists for local food in PPG7 (1997, paragraph 3.4).

c) Specifically the wording of PPG7 Annex C paragraph 23 could be expanded to:

‘To help ensure the long term sustainability of small woodlands, the government wishes to maintain and develop markets for woodland produce and to encourage woodland-based enterprise that adds to rural diversification. Small scale processing and woodland craft activities (such as charcoal burning, hurdle making and small- scale sawmills), where they are reasonably necessary to make the product marketable or disposable for profit and where they are consequential on the operations involved in producing timber grown upon the forestry unit, should be regarded as ancillary to the forestry activity and therefore do not re quire specific planning permission. Woodland can be particularly suitable for commercial recreation, catering for numbers of people and activities that might be intrusive in open countryside, and for educational pursuits. Such activities may sometimes play a significant role in underwriting the economics of sustainable woodland management and timber production. The Forestry Commission can advise local planning authorities on woodland recreation and education…’

Listing the activities to be permitted as ancillary in this way would remove any danger of undesirable activities being conducted in woodlands under this waiver, for example producing coal tar oil, or building roads, or stacking large quantities of timber.

3) Forestry Dwellings

Up until earlier this century it was usual for bodgers and charcoal burners to live on site in woodlands. Only in the last few decades has this lifestyle died out. Modern forestry management systems, based on monocropping and clear felling, tends to employ a peripatetic workforce consisting of a small number of highly mechanised contractors.

However the pendulum is now swinging the other way. Ecologically sustainable woodland management requires a different style of management from that adopted by modern commercial forestry. The emphasis is returning to a more varied harvest of timber, forest products and crafts, with greater employment opportunities, whilst monitoring and maintaining wildlife and biodiversity have become a priority. Continuous cover systems are now preferred to clear-fell monocultures – and continuous cover requires continuous human attention. Sustainable woodland management involves a closer and more permanent relationship with the wood, which in turn suggests a greater need for on-site dwellings. These dwellings need not be of a design that diminishes the beauty of a woodland, but can be ecological building designs made of natural materials that blend into the woodland and have a low environmental impact5.

There are a number of practical reasons why some woodland workers need to live on site. When making charcoal in a kiln, each burn can last up to 36 hours. Charcoal burners need to check and adjust the ventilation of their kilns, opening and closing different chimneys depending on the colour of the smoke, in the same way shepherds have to check on their ewes during the lambing season. As the burn lasts throughout the night it is not reasonable to expect a burner to travel in at 3am from the village. At the end of the burn the air supply is shut off with soil and the timing is critical to ensure fully carbonised charcoal. Ensuring the safet y of members of the public around the kiln is also of paramount importance. Public access in a working woodland is best managed by a resident forester, who can monitor equipment and operations out of hours. Tree nurseries require year- round protection, and human presence on a woodland site has been shown to be beneficial in deterring deer grazing on newly planted trees and regenerating coppice6.

Beyond any singular functional reason lies a more general imperative. The keeper’s cottage was traditionally sited within, or at the least on the very edge of the woodland. Today’s woodland stewardship is perhaps more likely to be concerned with conserving biodiversity than with conserving game, but the requirements are similar. To do the job to the highest standards requires an intimate knowledge and regular surveillance of what is happening in the wood. And a lot of what happens in woods, happens at night. For instance the nightime call of the nightjar and song of the nightingale announce their arrival for the summer season. Being in the woods at night, woodland workers can pick up this information and adjust their work patterns to avoid disturbing the areas in which these birds are likely to be nesting.

There are also important economic benefits to be obtained from residence on site which can help to underwrite the economic s of an otherwise marginal enterprise. Woods provide goods in kind to those living in them such as free firewood, building materials, and seasonal foods. Planning guidance (PPG7 1997 Annex I paragraph 1) encourages rural workers to live in villages and commute to their place of work. This immediately places enormous costs on the worker, such as rent (which is often expensive and in short supply in desirable villages) and the need for a car (since public transport in rural areas is often poor and unlikely to lead to the place of work). These expenses can be avoided by those living at their place of work. The juxtaposition of employment, retail and residential uses is advocated in PPG13 which promotes the mixing of uses in order to reduce the need for travel.

The General Permitted Development Order 1995 Part 5 allows forestry workers to live in woods on a seasonal basis in caravans. It does not specify which seasons are permitted. The winter months up until the end of April are the main season for coppicing and planting; hazel work, such as hurdle making, is done around April; oak bark peeling is done in May. New plantings and fresh coppice stools need to be kept free from weeds throughout the growing season. However, conifers can be felled at any time of year, and management of rural rides, timber processing and craft activities require work all year round. In short, diverse sustainable woodland management does not have set seasons and permanent on site accommodation would be beneficial.

PPG 7 1997 Annex I paragraph 17 states that under conventional forestry methods a dwelling is unlikely to be justified, which presumably indicates that unconventional forestry enterprises may justify one. However applications and appeals for dwellings associated with forestry have continued to be turned down. A clear statement is needed to the effect that sustainable forestry management may require permanent on-site accommodation.

Since the late 1960s the Government has advised Local Planning Authorities to assess whether applications for new agricultural dwellings are justified on the grounds of agricultural viability. Initially the policies were simple and flexible, for example ‘viability in this context can for practical purposes be defined as offering a competent farmer the prospect of a sufficient livelihood’ (DOE Circular 24/73). However in January 1992 a revised version of PPG7 was issued which contained new policies with the aim of lessening the abuse of planning concessions for agricultural and forestry dwellings. Since then planners have applied rigorous tests to applications for agriculture and forestry dwellings to assess whether the business is financially viable and whether the dwelling is functionally necessary. However these tests were designed for conventional methods of agriculture and forestry and are inappropriate for those wishing to live on site and practise sustainable forest management, (or indeed associated activities such as permaculture or forest gardening). Guidance on both tests needs to be adjusted, but we recognise that this can only take place in the context of a revised approach, not only to the needs of sustainable forestry, but also to sustainable agriculture as a whole. The recommendations made in the following three paragraphs are therefore long term and with implications which reach beyond the remit of the Forum, but we feel it is important to raise them.

The functional test needs to be modified so that it does not simply refer to one isolated functional requirement (such as attending to animals or surveillance of charcoal kilns), but so that it takes into account the sum total of benefits that might accrue from living on site. If on-site residence significantly improves the sustainable management and economic viability of the site holding (and one factor in this equation will be the amount of time and petrol spent commuting to and from the site) then this should be regarded as a material consideration in its favour.

The financial test needs to be modified to reflect the recent decision in the Court of Appeal (Arthur Sidney Petter and Monica Mary Harris v. SoS and Chichester DC, 1999) that ‘The financial test is only relevant in the determination of whether the grant of permission, in whatever terms it may be granted, would, because of the uncertain future of the agricultural activity, threaten to produce in the future a non-conforming residential use that would pass with the land a use that had lost its agricultural justification’. Under certain modes of agricultural production, the judges viewed that ‘profitability was no guide to…the genuineness and a poor guide to probable continuation’. In the case of Mr Petter, his subsistence-based ‘unit was sustainable in his hands and in that sense viable and likely to continue so’. A significant intermediary step in this direction could be made by taking into account, in any valuation of the enterprise, the value of goods in kind at the retail price that they would otherwise have to be acquired, rather than at ‘farm-gate’ or ‘roadside’ price.

Within the context of sustainable land management, the financial and functional tests, as they are phrased at the moment, are very blunt instruments. To safeguard against abuse and prevent the proliferation of rural dwellings for those not working on land, a more sophisticated criteria-based approach could be used. This would ensure that only those engaged in genuine sustainable land based activities could benefit from it. It would also guarantee that sustainable operations could never lapse into unsustainable ones (for example though a change in ownership). The mechanisms are already available in planning law in the form of planning obligations (Section 106 agreements), but have yet to be used to their full potential by local authorities. By stating a list of criteria in a local plan (‘development will be permitted provided that…’) a local authority could use this as the basis for a conditional planning approval, with a Section 106 legal agreement ensuring that the criteria be met. Model criteria have been prepared by Chapter Seven in their document Defining Rural Sustainability: Fifteen criteria for sustainable development in the countryside (1999, see annex). The use of criteria in planning has recently been endorsed by the Countryside Agency in Planning for Quality of Life in Rural England, the interim planning policy of the Countryside Agency (1999). This takes forward the work on Countryside Character developed by the Countryside Commission, and recognises that criteria provide a method for delivering developments of a specified type while blocking those developments deemed u ndesirable.


a) That paragraph 16 in Annex 1 of PPG 7 is amended to read: ‘Local Planning Authorities should normally apply the same criteria to applications for forestry dwellings as to agricultural dwellings. Under conventional modern methods of forestry management, which use a largely peripatetic workforce, a new forestry dwelling is unlikely to justified. However current forestry policy recognises that there is a large area of neglected woodland in England which requires management and which could contribute to the local rural economy. In special circumstances where it is necessary for the sustainable management of woodlands, residential development should be permitted. Initially this would be only on a seasonal or temporary basis. Residential structures should be of a siting, scale and design appropriate to the surroundings and the scale of the operation; and environmentally sound management of the woodland should be secured by condition or legal agreement.’

b) That policies are written into local plans stating that on-site accommodation for forestry workers will be permitted subject to adherence to certain criteria which would be enshrined in conditions or a Section 106 agreement. For example, the woodland worker would be legally committed to engage in sustainable woodland management, use renewable energy, restrict their use of fossil fuel powered vehicles, and build the house and workshops from local natural materials. Additional criteria should apply in the case of ancient woodlands to ensure that the location of a dwelling and the access to it would not have a negative impact on the integrity of the site.

c) That the value of goods in kind provided by the wood are discounted in any calculation of financial viability at the full retail value (which is what they would cost if bought in from outside) rather than at ‘road-side’ or ‘farm-gate’ prices. This is important, because ADAS do discount subsistence production, but at production prices rather than retail prices. This change could be explained in a Good Practice guide, and ADAS staff and planners could receive advice and training on the sustainable rural livelihoods model.

d) Update GPDO Part 5 on caravans to include ‘wooden structure which can be easily dismantled’ in line with PPG7 1997, Annex I Part 14. This would give seasonal workers the option of living in low impact wooden self built structures; modern equivalents of the simple dwellings built by bodgers and charcoal burners in the past. Since these homes are made from materials sourced from the woods themselves, they are more appropriate to their setting than a conventional caravan and revive a vernacular British housing tradition. They also have a very low embodied energy (the energy used in the manufacture, transport, use and disposal of a commodity) so are extremely environmentally friendly.


1. The definition of agriculture, section 336 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990: ‘agriculture includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of the land), the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes’. Confusingly ‘agriculture’ includes some activities which might now be referred to as forestry, for example ‘osier land’ is short rotation willow coppice used for basketry or biomass production. The Forestry Commission gives grants for the planting and management of short rotation willow coppice, and osier land might be better placed under a definition of forestry. The emergence of alternative forms of land management blur the boundaries still further, for instance permaculture (see note 7) and the two systems of agro-forestry: silvopastoral (running livestock among trees) and silvoarable (cultivating crops in the space between trees).

2. Appeal by Mr R. Waterfield, ref APP/R6830/A/99/512773/T

3. The definition the planner used may have been derived from the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, ss 30A (19) which states that ‘forestry means the growing of a utilisable crop of timber’. However the Act specifies that this definition only applies to section 30A, which deals with aftercare on mineral sites, so it was not suitable in the context the planner used it.

4. Appeal ref APP/M3645/G/85/17, A/85/36993, Planning Appeal Decisions 1986, 410-415. The opinion of the Inspector was that ‘”Forestry” included the growing, management, cutting, and uprooting of trees and clearing undergrowth. Conversion of trees into logs and rough hewn poles would be ancillary to forestry, as it assisted the clearance of forestry land. So might the initial sawing of logs into baulks and planks and their storage in the open air. However, planning, shaping, or sawing into specified dimensions would be “carpentry” rather than “forestry”‘.

5. A low impact development is defined as one that through its low negative environmental impact, either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality. The characteristics of a low impact development are that it is reversible, unobtrusive, made from predominantly local materials, protects wildlife and enhances biodiversity, consumes a low level of non-renewable resources, generates little traffic, is used for a sustainable purpose and is linked to a recognised positive environmental benefit (from Fairlie, S. 1996, Low Impact Development; People and Planning in a Sustainable Countryside, Jon Carpenter Publishers, Charlbury, Oxon)

6. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management involving cutting back trees periodically at the base to produce a crop of new shoots. If a woodland is managed in blocks or ‘coupes’ of rotation coppice, the mixed height structure that results provides a desirable patchwork of habitats for wildlife, and a useful annual crop of ‘poles’. Typical coppice wood species are hazel or sweet chestnut, and coppice wood can be grown as an understorey beneath tall ‘standard trees’.

7. Permaculture is the development of agricultural ecosystems into a land use intended to be complete and self sustaining. A permaculture design mirrors the diversity in a natural system, avoiding monocultures and instead harnessing the greater productivity that comes through multiple use of space. Typically it involves growing many different varieties of food and useful crops together , using several height layers or storeys.

Annex 1

Examples of sustainable woodland management in operation;  case studies and photographs

Testimony from Ben Law, Prickly Nut Wood, Snapelands Copse, Lodsworth, West Sussex. GU28 9DR.

Size of woodland: 8 acres (managing adjacent 27 acres under Forestry Commission Woodland Grant Scheme Contract)

Type of woodland: Primarily sweet chestnut coppice, planted about 150 years ago with some oak standards and some mixed broadleaf woodland of oak, alder, birch, rowan and hazel. Prior to the planting of sweet chestnut coppice, the woodland was oak standards over hazel underwood. It is an S.S.S.I. for mosses, lichens and ferns, which are dependent on the coppicing cycle. A new area of mixed broadleaves was planted in 1992, including a wildlife corridor linking the woodland to Lodsworth common.

Management objectives: To restore coppice cycles to enable the sustained production of marketable coppice and timber products, and charcoal. To maintain and enhance the wildlife value of the woodland and to demonstrate that employment in the coppice industry is compatible with the conservation objectives for the site. To show that living within the woodland can be low impact and beneficial, both for the woodland environment as a whole and in terms of rural sustainability – the need to not have to commute to work. To develop markets for non timber products like saps, fibres, nuts and honey and to market all produce from the woodland as locally as possible. To demonstrate and provide training in traditional and new market coppice crafts, to establish a small tree nursery in the craft working area to provide local stock for replanting within the woodland and for sale outside, to control invasive rhododendron, to maintain the woodland rides to be of benefit for wildlife and butterflies and to ensure enough coppice is cut each year to provide nesting sites for migratory nightjars.

What has been achieved so far: The woodland was acquired in 1992 and was at that time predominantly overstood with rampant rhododendron amid storm damage from 1987. One area had been cut for walking sticks and the stand was in good condition. Rhododendron control has been an ongoing challenge and some larger stools have been removed by winching; experiments of using a thick garden lime solution are still on going. A Woodland Improvement Grant has been obtained to cut the last few acres of rhododendron, some of which is seasoned and then sold as kindling. An old catchment pond which once fed a brickworks has been dug out and restored and adds a beautiful wildlife feature to the woodland edge. Wild ducks and an abundance of dragonflies are regular residents. Clay from the pond was used to build a coppice wood forestry building whose self supporting roof structure is based on the Hopi Indian Kiva Houses.

Photograph of raised beds and workshop; photovoltaic panel on workshop roof – Windows were salvaged from skips and it works as a storage area for wood and produce, a workshop and a restroom during the teaching of courses. The design allows for nesting spaces and in spring, young birds can be heard from their nests tucked under the overhang around the building. Nightjars are annual visitors and nest in the newly cut coppice, bat boxes are positioned near the craft working area to encourage reduction of midges and biting insects in high summer. Tawny owls are abundant and boxes have been placed to encourage them to nest near freshly cut coppice to hopefully catch young rabbits on early outings. Grass snakes, slow worms and lizards are regularly seen basking during summer and log piles encourage weasels. The author has been resident in the woods since 1992 having lived in various benders and yurts, and now presently situated in a caravan for which a three year temporary planning permission has been granted. Power from wind generato rs and solar panels gives winter lighting, a hot shower, radio and charges the telephone for orders, and enables an E-mail link to exist. Living in the woodland has ensured control of deer damage and ensured that a clear picture of the wildlife within the woodland has been built up. A twin vault compost loo recycles all wastes and adds fertility back to the soil.

Birds recorded by the author at Prickly Nut Wood: Nightjar, Cuckoo, Carrion Crow, Tawny Owl, Swallow, Wren, Little Owl, House Martin, Dunnock, Barn Owl, Nightingale, Sparrow, Heron, Stonechat, Black cap, Mallard Duck Robin, Wood Warbler, Moorhen, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Kingfisher, Song Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Long Tailed Tit, Woodcock, Redwing, Coal Tit, Chaffinch Starling, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Magpie, Blue Tit, Brambling, Jay, Nuthatch, Goldfinch, Rook, Tree Creeper, Green Finch, Wood Pigeon, Pheasant, Green Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

The woodland rides are rich with medicinal herbs and the first row of coppice on each side of the rides have been cut on a short rotation for walking sticks to improve the woodland profile and allow extra light to the rides. Chestnut standards are being singled and encouraged for nut production, and walnuts are being grown as standards in the coppice for nut variety. Coppice fruit avenues are established between chestnut blocks, to increase food production and increase future opportunities of sales of non timber produce. Raised beds in the craft area provide fresh produce all year round.

Photograph of charcoal kiln – Charcoal production has been the backbone of the woodland business and both barbecue and artists charcoal are produced and sold locally. Other income generation comes from walking sticks, rustic furniture, pergolas, rose arches, chestnut poles for building construction, hedge laying stakes, raised beds, yurts, faggots (bundles of brash for river bank restoration sold to the Environment agency), sale of nuts, honey, fruit, kindling, children’s furniture and training courses.

Photograph of chair made at Prickly Nut Wood

Photograph of brash bundles produced for the Environment Agency

Longer term objectives are to add value to larger timber by utilising mobile sawmilling. To increase the production and sales of chestnuts and other non timber produce from the woodland. To gain acceptability and promote the use of round wood coppice chestnut as a building material and to show the feasibility of earning a viable living from coppice management through diversity of produce and localised marketing. To use Prickly Nut Wood as an example to redefine woodland economics basing the economics on rural sustainability and not just monetary value. In other words quantifying energy saved through not travelling to work, improvement to fertility, increased biodiversity, harvesting of wild food, rainwater, electricity, quantifying utilising brash as cooking and heating wood rather than burning it in the woodland to heat nothing!

A study of the livelihood of Ben Law at Prickly Nut Wood has just been completed by an Agro-forestry MSc student at Bangor University. Current thinking (supported by DFID, the Department For International Development) is looking at models of rural livelihood analysis, based on understanding the vulnerability of rural livelihoods as an indicator of sustainability. This follows a model which moves away from the pattern of monetary economics as being the guideline for sustainability and takes a more holistic model looking at human, physical, social, financial and natural capital. Prickly Nut Wood is one pioneering example in the U.K. working with such a model and would expect future planning law to reflect DFID’s guidelines for sustainability; and measure need for planning permission under these guidelines as opposed to the now outdated and capitalist approach of measurement solely by financial earnings of an enterprise.

Planning situation: The woodland business would not be viable without having accommodation in the woods, for both practical and financial reasons. The area is very beautiful and consequently house prices in the village for both buying and renting are extremely high (it is a Conservation Area and AONB). The inflation in house prices far exceeds the inflation in the value of coppice products, so accommodation locally is unaffordable, and yet the villages are surrounded by coppice woodlands and the beauty of the landscape depends on this resource being managed.

Following a complaint, Chichester District Council issued an enforcement notice in 1996 on a self built yurt in which the author and his partner were living temporarily and seasonally. The yurt was made of hazel poles and tarpaulin and had been moved annually around the site to allow the vegetation to regenerate. Neither the Council nor the appeal inspector would accept that the yurt was seasonal forestry worker accommodation and was therefore Permitted Development under Part 5 of the GPDO because they would not recognise that a yurt was a caravan, despite historical evidence to the contrary (both of Mongolian yurts being moved on carts and of charcoal burners and bodgers living in huts of wood and turf in England). The yurt had to be removed, and instead an aluminium mobile home was purchased from a coastal holiday ca mp. This was moved into the woodland with great difficulty and considerable damage to trees and forest tracks. For this the council granted temporary planning permission for three years, with a personal condition limiting occupation to Ben Law and any resident dependants. In conclusion, the strict application of the definition of a caravan in Section 29 of the 1960 Caravan Sites and Control of Development Act meant that a biodegradable self build yurt was unacceptable, while an aluminium mobile home, which the author feels is obtrusive, impractical and unsuitable for the woodland location was deemed acceptable.

Message from Jim Thorne:

Dear Ms Nichol

I have been passed a copy of your document ‘Planning for Sustainable Woodlands’, by Jack Beckett as I am a member of the Dorset Coppice Group.

I have spent the last 14 months trying to obtain planning permission for a small green oak building on the corner of 220 acres of broadleaved and coppice woodland that my family own. I run a business from the woodland producing hurdles, charcoal and other traditional coppice products, whilst trying to re-establish parts of the wood that have been neglected.

I have encountered all the problems with the local planning authority that are outlined in your document, namely that my traditional approach to forestr y is not catered for in planning guidelines and therefore is considered invalid by planning officers.

As a woodland owner and coppice worker I consider the ability to be on site around the clock as essential to the long term success of my business and maintenance of the woodlands habitat for conservation benefit.

For these reasons I am greatly interested in the amendment of the planning guidelines and fully support the findings of the document. I would very much like to follow the progress of this issue in the future as I fully believe that this type of approach is needed for the long term benefit of English forestry.

Jim Thorne- “Jim Thorne” <>


Annex 2

Two extracts from Defining Rural Sustainability, Chapter 7 (1999).

Fifteen Criteria for developments associated with sustainable land-based rural activities

1. The project has a management plan which demonstrates: a) how the site will contribute significantly towards the occupiers’ livelihoods; b) how the objectives cited in items 2 to 14 below will be achieved and maintained.

2. The project provides affordable access to land and/or housing to people in need.

3. The project provides public access to the countryside, including temporary access such as open-days and educational visits.

4. The project can demonstrate how it will be integrated into the local economy and community.

5. The project can demonstrate that no activities pursued on the site shall cause undue nuisance to neighbours or the public.

6. The project has prepared a strategy for the minimization of motor vehicle use.

7. The development and any buildings associated with it are appropriately sited in relation to local landscape, natural resources and settlement patterns.

8. New buildings and dwellings are not visually intrusive nor of a scale disproportionate to the site and the scale of the operation; are constructed from materials with low embodied energy and environmental impact, and preferably from locally sourced materials, unless environmental considerations or the use of reclaimed materials determine otherwise. reclaimed materials determine otherwise. Reuse and conversion of existing buildings on the site is carried out as far as practicable in conformity with these criteria.

9. The project is reversible, insofar as new buildings can be easily dismantled and the land easily restored to its former condition.

10. The project  has a strategy for minimise the creation of waste and to reuse and recycle as much as possible on site.

11. The project has a strategy for energy conservation and the reduction over time, of dependence on non-renewable energy sources to a practical minimum.

12. The project aims over time for the autonomous provision of water, energy and sewage disposal and where it is not already connected to the utilities, shall make no demands upon the existing infrastructure.

13. Agricultural, forestry and similar land-based activities are carried out according to sustainable principles. Preference will be given to projects which conform to registered organic standards, sustainable forestry standards or recognized permaculture principles.

14. The project has strategies and programmes for the ecological management of the site, including : a) the sustainable management and improvement of soil structure; b) the conservation and, where appropriate, the enhancement of semi-natural habitat, taking into account biodiversity, indigenous species, and wildlife corridors; c) the efficient use and reuse of water, as well as increasing the water holding capacity of the site; d) the planting of trees and hedges, particularly in areas where the tree coverage is less than 20 per cent.

15. The project can show that affordability and sustainability are secured, for example, by the involvement of a housing association, co-operative, trust or other social body whose continuing interest in the property will ensure control over subsequent changes of ownership.

Three Model Policies for Local Plans

Model Policy A: Sustainable Land- Based Economic Activities

Developments associated with agriculture, forestry and other land based economic activities in the open countryside should be sustainable and should demonstrate that they, and the activities concerned, have a beneficial or minimally adverse impact on the surrounding countryside and its occupants, and on the wider environment.

In judging the sustainability of such activities, regard will be had to:

· ecological management of the site;

· farming and forestry methods;

· waste, energy and resource management;

· the siting and structure of buildings;

· vehicle use;

· the impact on the surrounding community;

· public access

Model Policy B: Dwellings Associated with Sustainable Land- Based Activities

Applications for isolated dwellings in the countryside will be permitted where:

a) It is essential for the proper functioning of the  enterprise for one or more workers to be readily available at most times;

b) There is clear evidence that the proposed enterprise has been planned on a sound financial basis and with a firm intention and ability to carry it out;

c) On-site residence will help to minimise rather than increase overall car use;

d) The dwelling and its services will, as far as is practicable, be sustainably designed in regard to siting, scale, resource use and environmental impact;

e) Other planning policies, for example on access or design, are satisfied.

Dwellings associated with new sustainable land- based enterprises will initially only be granted planning permission for a temporary period of three years.

Model Policy C: Sustainable Affordable Housing

In considering new dwellings associated with sustainable land- based activities, the council may exceptionally grant permission for a sustainable housing development where the need for land- based occupancy is part- time, seasonal or inconclusive, provided that:

a) Occupancy is restricted by legal agreement or condition to those meeting the criteria of local need for affordable housing;

b) The dwelling and its services will, as far as is practicable, be sustainably designed in regard to siting, scale, resource use and environmental impact; < P> c) The scale and nature of the dwellings meet the criteria for affordable housing identified in this plan.


Anyone may reproduce all or part of this document provided that it is not   for profit and the authors are credited.

For further information about this report please contact

Lucy Nichol, School of Planning, Oxford Brookes University, Gipsy Lane, Headington, Oxford, OX3 OBP or telephone 01865 484065

Printing funded by Chapter 7 and the National Small Woods Association.

Chapter 7 campaigns for a planning system which actively encourages sustainable, low impact and affordable homes.

Chapter 7, The Potato Store, Flaxdrayton Farm, South Petherton, Somerset, TA13. Telephone 01460 249204

The National Small Woods Association’s mission is to improve or maintain the productive, aesthetic and environmental values of the nation’s small woodlands by sustainable management through education, training, developing markets and improving information exchange.

National Small Woods Association, The Cabins, Malehurst Estate, Minsterley, Shropshire, SY5 0EQ. Telephone 01743 792644

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