Camping banned on East Lothian woodland plots - but thumbs-up given for a hut

The owner of part of an ancient East Lothian woodland has been banned from camping on the site, despite being given the go ahead to install a hut.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 4:55 am

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The site is part of Bolton Muir Woods near Gifford which has been parcelled into 18 separate plots which were put on the market for private sale.

East Lothian councillors approved the hut despite one member warning that it would “set them up for complete chaos”.

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Idyllic setting for a getaway: Bolton Muir Woods

But they imposed a ban on any tents or other accommodation amid fears a compost toilet on the site would become a health hazard.

The camping ban came as the Local Review Body voiced concerns that a lack of control over numbers would see all plots combining into a “residential area” rather than woodlands.

Earlier this year the local authority’s Local Review Body threw out an appeal by another plot owner who had been refused planning permission for a hut on their plot after describing it as a “chalet”.

And when the owner of Nolt Wood was also rejected and appealed, a decision was delayed as they asked the owner to produce a site management plan for the entire woods.

This week the body returned to the appeal where councillors were told the owner of Nolt Wood’s agents had argued that it was unreasonable to ask them to produce a management plan for other plots in the ancient woodlands.

Convenor Norman Hampshire raised concerns over a lack of a management plan for the woods but accepted it was not the owner of one plot’s responsibility and moved to introduce ‘robust’ conditions which would restrict the numbers able to use individual plots.

He said: “The government has taken the decision to support huts and my fear is that if we say no another application will come to planning, be rejected and go to Scottish Government which will approve it and we will have no way to impose controls.

“If we can put in enough controls now then other applicants will have to meet them as well.”

The decision included a ban on diesel or petrol generators, restriction of vehicles to just one at the site and demand for huts and any ancillary buildings to be built on pads and not dug into the ground.

Councillor Hampshire said while he was happy for a family to stay in the hut for two or three days, the potential for groups of adults to come and stay in tents was unacceptable.

He said: “I am really concerned about the impact these developments will have on the woodlands.”

Councillor Jeremy Findlay voted against allowing the hut and ancillary buildings, describing the owner’s claims he could not produce a site management plan for the entire woods a “cop-out”

He said: “If we allow this application to go through there is another 30 to 40 coming down the line and we still won’t have a management plan for the site.

“We are setting up for complete chaos.”

But member Kenny McLeod said: “We need to move forward, they are the guinea pigs for the start of the site, if we make the conditions robust the others will follow suit.”

The hut was approved with approval for a compost toilet and up to two ancillary buildings with a maximum 6 metres squared floor space.

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