Plans for a largely conifer woodland in the Hadrians Wall corridor in Northumberland have hit opposition. Northumberland National Park Authority has objected to a bid by a landowner to develop 43 hectares of land at Wallshield in the Hadrians Wall buffer zone.
The proposal is for the 113-hectare Wallshield upland farm, which is 6km north of Haltwhistle and 3km from the Wall.
The bid, under the English Woodland Grant Scheme, has gone to the Forestry Commission, which passed the plans to Northumberland National Park Authority for comment.
The park said the decision to object was made citing the need to carefully control any new woodland in the Hadrian’s Wall Corridor and in view of the proposed plantation’s significant impact on the landscape character of the area.
The authority’ objections were based on: the lack of evidence on which to assess the full archaeological implications of the planting scheme; the impact that the planting scheme would have on nationally important ground nesting birds and the lack of evidence on which to assess the full ecological effects on the site and surrounding habitats; the impact on the landscape character of this part of the world heritage site corridor and views into and from the application site, including recognition that this scheme would more than double the existing woodland cover in the Thirlwall Common Landscape Character Area; the impact upon people’s enjoyment of the national park while using the existing rights of way and access land on and adjacent to Wallshield Farm.
Authority chairman John Riddle said: “The authority is aware of the great opportunity that woodland creation represents, but as a statutory consultee on all woodland grant schemes in the national park, we have to be mindful that proposals do not undermine the special qualities of the park such as landscape character and the natural and historic environment, and do not impact on access and the rights of way network that is so critical to the visitor economy.”
Currently 22% of the park is woodland of which 82% is conifer plantation.
Mr Riddle said: “This authority has a strong track record of supporting woodland creation and has a stated aim to increase native broadleaf woodland in the park on the principle of the right trees in the right places.
“Commercial forestry is an important part of the rural economy in many parts of the park but it is a fine balancing act when it comes to ensuring that new forestry proposals are not detrimental to the upland moorland landscape, wildlife and special qualities of the national park that residents and visitors cherish.
“However, the authority feels that the Wallshield proposal in the Hadrian’s Wall buffer zone is inappropriate and could be extensively damaging to the long-term interests of the landscape and special qualities of the national park and to the local tourism economy.”
Robert Mayhew, landscape and forestry officer for the authority said: “Ensuring that new woodland planting schemes do not have a significant adverse effect on the landscape, biodiversity, archaeology, public access and communities of the national park is key.
“With such a significant imbalance of conifer to native broadleaved woodland already in the area, we encourage the expansion of well managed native woodland that is in keeping with the traditional upland landscape and has the potential to enhance biodiversity or become a source of local wood fuel in the future.”
The authority also strongly disagrees with the Forestry Commission’s recent decision not to require an Environmental Impact Assessment for the Wallshield proposal – a decision the it is asking the Forestry Commission to review.