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'Illegal' buildings in ancient woodland at Adisham near Canterbury must be torn down

Owners of “illegal buildings” erected in ancient woodland have been ordered to tear them down amid fears the countryside is being “urbanised”.

Planning officials at Canterbury City Council launched an investigation into the structures at Adisham near Canterbury after villagers complained they suspected construction work had gone beyond the forestry provision allowed.

A building in the woods at Adisham. Picture: Barry Goodwin
A building in the woods at Adisham. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Locals reported that tarmac roads, CCTV cameras, fencing, security lighting and services connections had been laid - and even post boxes installed - giving rise to suspicions of wider use.

Now, the authority has deemed that six buildings breach planning regulations and issued enforcement notices ordering their removal, along with hard-standing and other materials and debris.

The controversial structures have been built off Woodlands Road, between Bridge and Adisham, in an area designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Those who had bought the woodland plots had notified the city council that buildings were being erected to “support forestry management”.

A building in woodland at Adisham
A building in woodland at Adisham

Council officers had previously investigated claims the buildings and their use did not comply with planning regulations, but took no action.

Now, following further information and visits to the site, the authority has determined there are planning breaches which warrant enforcement action, and issued six notices.

Officers say there has been “urbanisation” of the woodland, and have also ordered that hard surfacing be removed.

The notices say the structures and associated works have resulted in “undesirable, sporadic development to the amenities of the countryside which is not justified by any particular local circumstances and contrary to planning policies”.

The ancient woodland at Adisham. Picture: Barry Goodwin
The ancient woodland at Adisham. Picture: Barry Goodwin

Officers add that the “inappropriate” developments are causing “significant harm to the character and appearance of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”.

The legal action is being welcomed by campaigners who have long been alarmed by the developments in the protected woodlands after the plots were sold off.

David Conder, who is one of the founders of the Watch Over Adisham Woods (WOWA) action group - set up to protect 10 ancient woodlands in the area - says it is a victory for conservation and the efforts of campaigners.

“We have been keeping close observations for some time and strongly suspected that something wasn’t right due to the heavy construction vehicles and coming and goings,” he said.

Barbed wire fencing in Oxenden Shaw wood in Adisham
Barbed wire fencing in Oxenden Shaw wood in Adisham

“So we are delighted the council has acted so decisively to put a stop to this misuse in such beautiful woodland which dates back to 1600."

The campaign to investigate the buildings was also backed by the Woodland Trust and CPRE (Kent) as well as Canterbury MP Rosie Duffield.

In correspondence with Ms Duffield, shared with the action group, planning officers say: “Our view is that the buildings do not match those for which we received prior notification.

“We have now served enforcement notices on the owners of the five buildings as well as a sixth building that is currently under construction.”

Woodland at Adisham where buildings have been erected
Woodland at Adisham where buildings have been erected

Mr Conder added: “It just shows that a public interest campaign can work to stop things that really shouldn’t be happening and that whistle-blowing is a vital and an entirely constitutional civic duty.”

WOWA says the owners of other plots in the area are acting within the law and have good relations with villagers and the parish council over their management of the woods.

The owners of the buildings hit with enforcement action have six months to remove them.

They also have the right to appeal against the notices.

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