The current definition of forestry is limited and is inconsistent with DEFRA'S latest strategy for Trees, Woods and Forests which states that community and educational use of woodlands is core to it's aims.
Under current planning law, woodlands are only available for 'non forestry' use for 28 days a year. This means that community forest schools (which offer children opportunities to learn and connect with their environment), woodland playschemes and conservation groups using young people as volunteers may be required to apply for change of use. Current definitions of land use are also inflexible so that there are no sub groups; educational use is presumed to be a 'school' and a conservation project can find themselves being asked to supply car parking to the same specifications as a new build school in order to get change of use.
I would like the definition of forestry and agrigulture to be more flexible- to allow for sustainable community growing and conservation projects.
Why is this idea important?
Currently valuable projects are vulnerable as technically they are operating in contravention of planning if they use sites for more than 28 days per year.
Planning officersoften turn a blind eye because they realize these projects are important but if anyone complains they are forced to investigate.
This is an unnecessary strain on projects, many valuable ones have been forced to close.
Voluntary and community groups can provide a really valuable, low cost service to communities and should not have to deal with these bureaucratic obstacles. For example by offering volunteering opportunities to those with learning difficulties, the unemployed, young people disaffected from school and society, groups like these fullfill a really important role.
Providing that the project is well run and low impact and is intrinsically connected to the original purpose of the land eg forestry or agriculture (to include food growing) they should be allowed to continue unobstructed.