PLANNERS have backed a well established Moretonhampstead forestry venture by granting a Certificate of Lawfulness.

Moor Barton Wood at Moretonhampstead offers a mix of events including camping, bushcraft and environmental education.

Owner Mr R Bowman had applied for the certificate from the Dartmoor National Park Authority’s planning department and it has been granted under delegated powers.

He submitted plans for forestry and for ‘courses and land-based events including camping’ uses, which are separate from the bulk of his holding that is used solely for forestry (agriculture) purposes. 

Mr Bowman bought Moor Barton Wood in 2012 and produced most of his evidence to support this application over the period of his ownership, although he said that the previous owner also allowed the woodland to be used by various individuals and organisations to rent for use as a venue for courses and land-based events on an ongoing basis since 2006. 

Fifty letters of support were received for the development but planners said only three included material evidence relevant to the consideration of the application. 

One is from a neighbouring resident who is very familiar with the site and states that this use started before November 2009, another is from an ‘environmental educator’ who first experienced Moor Barton over 15 years ago and has attended numerous events since. 

The final representation was from an employee of the RSPB who has run 11 bird song courses for up to 30 people between 2010 and 2022. 

The planning report said : ‘, it seems fairly clear that the use is a composite use comprising primary forestry (agriculture), courses, land-based events and camping uses, coupled with certain ancillary uses, such as car parking.

‘The primary uses fluctuate in intensity relative to each other in that the number of days on which events and camping take place (and possibly the amount of land that each use occupies) varies year on year. 

‘That fluctuation will not prevent a composite use becoming established; it is a characteristic of this kind of use. Therefore, a mixed (composite) use does appear to have been shown to subsist, in breach of planning control, for the requisite period of 10 years, assessed from the date of the application. 

‘On that basis, a certificate of some description can be granted.’

Moor Barton Wood is a 24.859 ha (61.43 acre) woodland located approximately 1.9 km west of Kennick Reservoir, between Moor Barton House and Higher Elsford Farm. The woodland is accessed off the road from Bullaton Cross to Cossick Cross. 

The planners recorded: ‘Sufficient information has been provided in writing to show that on the balance of probabilities a single mixed use has taken place on the land for a continuous period of 10 years preceding the date of submission of the application.’