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Saturday, 20 September 2014

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Hayton Estates sells Gelt Woods to alternative energy company

An ancient woodland at the centre of a high-profile criminal case has been sold.

Gelt Woods photo
Gelt Woods

And the first job for the new owners of Gelt Woods, near Brampton, is to secure permission for an estate building, which has already been built without consent.

Carlisle City Council planners is set to approve the retrospective application, which has sparked controversy among those living nearby, today.

Hayton parish council says in planning documents that granting permission for work already done “sets a dangerous precedent”.

Opponents claim the once popular beauty spot has become an “area to avoid” during the shooting season because of the noise.

The proposals for the building include storage rooms, a kitchen, shower rooms, a toilet and main room.

It is on land near the River Gelt, an area designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

The picturesque beauty spot was at the centre of a trial at Carlisle Crown Court last August when landowner and Edinburgh Woollen Mill boss Philip Day, a multi-millionaire, was ordered to pay nearly £1 million for allowing some areas to be destroyed.

But it emerged this week that the woods have been sold by Mr Day’s Hayton Estates to alternative energy holding company Roxlena.

They say they understand objections to the plans to be considered by councillors today but don’t believe they are relevant.

A spokesman said: “We also point out that the application has the full support of the local planning authority.

“Furthermore, as part of the new owner’s due diligence process, Natural England were consulted, and concluded that they had no concern regarding any sporting activities that take place on the estate. There have not been – nor will there be – any restrictions regarding the use of public footpaths at the site.

“Significant due diligence has been undertaken at the site which confirms the estate is both in excellent condition and well-managed.”

According to the planning papers, allegations have been made that illegal shooting has been carried out on adjacent land. Twenty letters have been lodged in protest, which include claims that:

  • Wildlife and ecology will be damaged;
  • The latest application has simply been re-worded to gain approval, “brushing under the carpet” several areas of concern;
  • It is unclear exactly what estate activities would be supported at the building;
  • Public access to the River Gelt is denied for four months of the year;
  • Shoot organisers do not currently respect the SSSI and this will not change in future.

Hayton parish council fears that the use of the building may eventually change and claims it cannot be classed for agricultural use as it is now used for “commercial shooting”.

The authority believes this change of use could damage the area’s SSSI status in the long term.

Case officer Richard Maunsell, in his report to the council, says the principle of the use of the buildings is acceptable. He adds that the structures are sympathetically designed and appropriate.

The proposal does not adversely affect the character of the landscape and appearance of the area. Public access along footpaths and bridleways is not restricted by the scheme, which he adds, is compliant with all relevant planning policies.

Roxlena says it buys land to both manage risk and allow increased options to help protect multiple types of ecosystems such as grasslands, forests, woodlands and areas of outstanding natural beauty.

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