A planning appeal critical to the future of a sustainable forestry business on Dartmoor has been postponed.
Doug King-Smith, owner of The Hillyfield near Harbourneford, had been expecting to face a planning inspector and Dartmoor National Park Authority at an inquiry this week.
Mr King-Smith has appealed DNPA’s refusal of ’prior notification’ permission to build two barns at the site, which he says are crucial to make his management of the woodland financially sustainable.
The event has been postponed, he says, as the inspector wants more time to look at the situation at The Hillyfield.
The application by Mr King-Smith, who lives near Harberton, is part of a complex planning picture at the site. He has long maintained, with support from forestry experts, that some permanent buildings at The Hillyfield are necessary in order to manage the woodland in a way that enables a ’small living’ to be made from it.
The buildings are intended for things like drying timber and logs prior to sale, storing and working on machinery, and as a ’welfare space’ for volunteers and workers.
DNPA, however, has said it does not believe the buildings are necessary for the purposes of forestry.
Part of the appeal also concerns enforcement notices served by DNPA against The Hillyfield for alleged changes of use of buildings and unauthorised structures.
Mr King-Smith is viewing the delay positively, and hopes it may offer a chance to negotiate with the national park and ultimately avoid an inquiry altogether.
He said: "The last six months has seen intense paperwork and preparation for the inquiry and we now have a very strong legal case. We now have six months to either find a way to come to a win-win agreement with DNPA, or hone our case still further and win at a new public inquiry."
Mr King-Smith said he has tried to "knock as many things as possible" off DNPA’s list of complaints as he has waited for the appeal. He has been able to build his legal case thanks to a successful £35,000 crowdfunding appeal.
He added: "My angle is that there are many small woodlands on the moor, many with difficult access and other problems, but there is an opportunity for people to make a living, albeit a small living, from adding value to timber. There is a market for it, and it fits with the park’s aims of sustainability.
"It is frustrating how these things drag on, but it offers us a really good opportunity to look again at the facts. Even if we’re not able to come to a complete agreement, we’re hoping they can look again at some things, like the enforcements.
"For all our sakes I’d like to avoid the expense of going through with the inquiry."