Tuesday 23 July 2024
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Outdoor activities hub to appeal to Government over planning permission refusal

An activities hub featuring a cinema, a maze and laser tag based unlawfully on greenbelt land has been refused consent to retrospectively change the use of its land.

The land, off Lime Lane near Arnold and Calverton, has been used for several recreational activities over the past four years.

The site is operated by Back2Basics (B2B) and Into The Forest.

Combined, the two organisations provide a seasonal maize maze, bushcraft workshops, a forestry school, outdoor cinema, axe throwing, laser tag and air rifle and crossbow shooting. The land has also hosted music festivals.

However, a festival in July last year prompted complaints to Gedling Borough Council about noise, anti-social behaviour and highway safety.

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Investigations found no change of use for the agricultural land had been sought through official planning processes.

The council launched planning enforcement action last year and began discussions with the landowner – a local farming family – to find a solution.

The operators were told they would be allowed to temporarily use the land for 28 days in one year without planning consent.

However, having on-site equipment there permanently meant they had exceeded this 28-day by January 28 each year.

It led to an official but retrospective planning application being submitted in November last year asking to use the wider land for these purposes.

Those plans were debated in April but deferred by councillors in the hope of negotiations to find a way of using the land.

Upon returning to the council’s planning committee on Wednesday (June 21), however, it was refused permission.

The April meeting focused on buildings and structures erected on the land for various different activities.

It was hoped they could be removed in order to protect the character of the countryside.

Wednesday’s meeting heard two containers had been removed and many still remained.

But the applicant had told the authority it plans to take steps to reduce the impact of its wider site.

Ed Hammond, the landowner and applicant, said: “[The activities] make the most of the natural environment, which is what attracts so many businesses to use them.

“Not only have we taken on-board suggestions from the council, but operators have removed many items from the site.

“B2B and Into The Forest want this to remain a natural setting for the activities they provide.”

He added: “These are local businesses providing jobs not only on the site but in the wider area.”

Councillors on the committee debated whether to refuse the retrospective application.

Cllr Jane Walker (Con), who represents Calverton, said: “This outdoor activity centre is an amazing asset to Gedling and the wider area.

“It offers fantastic outdoor pursuits, the benefits these activities bring to children and adults of all ages include good exercise, fresh air, socialising, learning new skills and looking after the environment.

“The company contributes as a local employer.”

But Cllr Paul Wilkinson (Lab), who called for the deferral in April, said: “I thought there was a solution to be found.

“I’m genuinely sorry that appears not to have been possible. Unfortunately, I still can’t vote for what’s in front of us.”

A local resident also spoke against the plans and said nearby properties had been “severely impacted” by events at the site.

In a report, the authority agreed and said the unauthorised change of use “introduced a potential source of noise and disturbance”.

And it said its changed usage has “resulted in undue harm to the landscape” of the area.

The planning department recommended refusal at the meeting and this was backed by the committee.

The meeting then heard planning enforcement will be launched against operators for running the site without planning permission.

The enforcement – which includes a notice requiring the ending of all unauthorised activities on the site – could lead to court action if not followed.

It will require the reversal of the change of use on the land and the ending of outdoor pursuits, cinema and leisure activities.

It will also require all structures and on-site infrastructure to be removed from the land.

Following the meeting, the applicants confirmed they are appealing the refusal of planning permission to the Government’s planning inspectorate.

If this appeal is successful, it would grant permission for the use of the Greenbelt site and protect the businesses from planning enforcement and potential closure.

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