Friends of Fineshade vow to fight glamping plans 'tooth and nail'

This is the fifth application on the meadow near the visitor centre

An action group dedicated to protecting the nature of Rockingham Forest has vowed to fight the latest planning application at a north Northamptonshire beauty spot.

Members of The Friends of Fineshade group have encouraged people to take part in the consultation process on the planning application for glamping pods at Top Lodge Fineshade.

It is the fifth planning application that has been made on the land close to the Forestry Commission-owned visitor centre at Fineshade Woods.

The 2.8 hectare field is at the top of Top Lodge Road

Countrywide Park Homes Ltd has applied for a planning application for 15 glamping pods, an unspecified number of camping pitches, a car park with 21 spaces and a single static caravan for an on-site warden on the 2.8 hectare site (nearly seven acres).

Tricia Galpin, member of The Friends of Fineshade, said: "The previous application was absolutely slaughtered. We are a polished fighting machine and we'll fight tooth and nail.

"This time he has been more canny going for glamping pods. It's totally inappropriate for Fineshade. It's always been grazing land and now they basically want a caravan site but there's no loos or shower block. If the glamping pods are approved then they could apply for change of use for static caravans."

Accessed by a single track road with passing places, the Friends of Fineshade have cited traffic problems as one of their objections.

The plans

Mrs Galpin said: "We have half a million visitors a year and in lockdown we were a honeypot because there's nothing much else like Fineshade in the area. It has a cafe and visitor centre, marked walks and the playground. It's an easy day out."

​The previous application for change of use of land to house a timber lodge holiday park was declined in July 2019 on the sloping meadow on Top Lodge Road.

Documents supporting the application emphasise the new development would 'enhance the tourism offer' at Fineshade for holiday makers wanting to 'make the most' of the 'remarkable' location.

People would either bring their own tents or hire glamping pods - prefabricated timber, self-contained units with sleeping area, kitchen, cooking area, and lounge.

The planning application covers the area near to the visitor centre

The document also acknowledges the short-comings of a previous application, by the same company, saying that 'the scale, level of operational development and density of their previous application had been disproportionate and unacceptable.'

Facing the 18th century Top Lodge farmhouse the land slopes down towards the valley and is potentially home to adders, according to the Friends.

Mrs Galpin said: "It is acknowledged as a very important site for reptiles, particularly the locally rare Adder. Such a site is no place to encourage camping, and it's right in front of a Grade II listed building. There are no shops, facilities or public transport options within easy walking distance make this development unsustainable."

"Let's not be hoodwinked: this is a property company desperately trying to get a foot in the door to exploit Fineshade."

The greenfield site

​The application was lodged with the former East Northants Council but will be decided by the new unitary authority of North Northamptonshire with a soon to be elected planning committee made up of new councillors.

Commenting on the application Natural England said: "Based on the plans submitted, Natural England considers that the proposed development will not have significant adverse impacts on statutorily protected nature conservation sites or landscapes."

But the community safety officer on behalf of Northamptonshire Police said: "Such sites with this form of accommodation proposed are very difficult to secure. Details of the proposed warden management strategy and the security of warden accommodation would need to be agreed. Formal surveillance, CCTV, must be considered and should be able to produce images which will observe/recognise persons during all times of the day. Particularly covering approach routes and vulnerable car parking areas."

Members of the public who wish to comment on the plans have until Friday, April 30, 2021.

Mrs Galpin added: "This application is just the thin end of a wedge towards a huge complex of holiday or residential accommodation at Top Lodge. It's 'planning mission creep'."

For the full planning application click here.

The inside of a glamping pod - library picture
The site is located at the top of Top Lodge Road