AONB, Woodland Trust, residents and parish council object to Crook O' Lune 'ancient woodland' caravan park plans
Plans to extend the Crook O' Lune Caravan Park near Lancaster have been met with many objections, and an investigation has been launched into whether the site is considered ancient woodland.
Carnforth based Pure Leisure Group Ltd had previously applied to extend the caravan park with 19 extra static caravans to the north of the site, together with the retention of earthworks that have already been done.
Planning permission was originally granted by Lancaster City Council on June 1 2020, but Pure Leisure said that due to procedural issues on the council’s part, the company was asked to make a fresh application and the original permission was rescinded in July.
During that period, it said that earthworks were undertaken on the site in preparation for construction, but ceased at the council's request.
An investigation has now been launched into whether the site should be considered ancient woodland, which could affect any future planning outcome.
Forest of Bowland AONB said the proposal within woodland to the north east of Eagle's Nest Wood will have an adverse impact on the local landscape character, in particular for residents and visitors travelling into the AONB along the A683 to the Crook o' Lune and AONB gateway village of Caton.
It said the proposed site will also be more visually intrusive from the A683 than the existing Crook o' Lune caravan park.
"The existing caravan park benefits from good screening due to local topography and substantial woodland vegetation, something which is much less achievable at the proposed site," a spokesperson for the AONB said in a statement on the council's planning website.
"It is noted that both GMEU (Greater Manchester Ecological Unit) and Woodland Trust consider the site to have many or all of the characteristics to suggest the site contains ancient semi-natural woodland.
"The proposed development has the potential to have significant adverse impacts on biodiversity of the site and surrounding woodland and therefore is unsuitable for a development of this nature.
"In conclusion, given the above comments, the AONB Partnership wishes to object to this proposal.
"Finally, it is also noted that some of the site has been subject to earthworks (principally the woodland meadow/glade) during 2020.
"Should the council be minded to refuse consent, then the applicant should be required to reinstate and restore this area of this site to a species-rich meadow."
Many residents have also objected to the proposals on grounds of road safety, visual amenity and the loss of habitat.
Some said the planning application was permitted by the council with very little substance or transparency and with a distinct lack of appropriate consultation.
The Woodland Trust said: "This area of woodland appears on the first edition OS 1:10,000 map and the OS Six-inch series published in 1847, 1895, 1919 and 1931.
"The woodland is therefore of historical and ecological importance and likely to be ancient woodland.
"We understand that a submission has recently been made to Natural England to assess whether this area of woodland warrants ancient woodland status, in which case measures must be implemented as part of any proposals to ensure Eagle's Nest Wood is suitably protected.
"Until such a point that Natural England has concluded its investigation into the antiquity of the site, we request that this application is not afforded planning permission.
"As such, we will maintain a holding objection to this application."
The Greater Manchester Ecological Unit said that the submitted ecology report appears to have been undertaken after the clearance of the site has been undertaken.
It said that the site clearance was undertaken without the discharge of the relevant planning conditions related to a previous permission for the site, which did not take into account the ecological value on the site.
But Natural England said that the proposed development will not have significant adverse impacts on the Morecambe Bay and Duddon Estuary Special Protection Area (SPA), the Morecambe Bay Special Area of Conservation (SAC), the Morecambe Bay Ramsar site and the Lune Estuary Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and has no objection.
However it added: "Natural England strongly advises that you take into account the views of the Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership when making your decision on this application."
Quernmore Parish Council has also objected to the proposal.
It said: "This development, for the siting of 19 mobile homes, should be considered as a major development, will have a significant adverse impact on the landscape character and amenity within the Forest of Bowland AONB.
"Such a major development is considered to be incompatible with the Policies included in the Lancaster Development Plan and other local Planning Policies.
"The proposed development will significantly alter a natural meadow within an 'Ancient Woodland' which should be retained for amenity and wildlife value.
"There would be a significant impact on local wildlife.
"Significant works have already commenced and have destroyed parts of the site.
"The area needs to be reinstated.
"The existing entrance to the Scarthwaite Caravan Park and other properties is considered to be unsuitable to cope with the additional traffic which will be generated by this development.
"This junction is already considered to be dangerous and any increase in traffic will exacerbate the issue.
"The Parish Council also questions whether there is a demand for additional static caravans at this location.
"This development is unlikely to increase employment in the area for 'residents', will put an additional strain of local services, and will significantly affect the rural character of the area and impact on local residents and visitors.
"Quernmore Parish Council would like to see this application refused despite the previous planning history of the site."
David Owen, Planning & Development Manager at Pure Leisure, told the Lancaster Guardian: "Planning permission was originally granted by Lancaster City Council on the 1st June 2020 for an additional 19 static holiday pitches.
"Due to procedural issues on the council’s part, the latter concluded on 9th July 2020 that they wanted us to make a fresh application and rescinded the permission granted under reference 18/00463/CU.
"During the intervening period various permitted enabling works were undertaken in preparation of construction.
"All works ceased voluntarily at the council’s request.
"The development land in question was the former home - a log cabin - and garden of Mrs Joan Whitehead, which is in line with both the original and current application.
"There is a due process currently being followed and that is the correct and proper way to deal with such matters.
"The application is the subject of input by various specialists and agencies and there is an established mechanism for the local planning authority to receive factual responses from all parties."
The new application was received by the council in November 2020 and is awaiting decision by the planning committee.