AN ANGRY campaign group has claimed the owners of a unique Malvern woodland told them it would only be re-opened to the public if they stopped fighting a controversial planning application.
Sharon Taylor, who set up the Save Langdale Wood group, has alleged bosses at the Three Counties Agricultural Society (3CAS) declared they would not open the site until she and her supporters stood back from the charity’s plans to build 40 lodges and a reception office within the wood.
The resubmitted plans followed the rejection of the society’s proposal in mid-January to build 50 lodges and a large reception block in the Blackmore Park Road woodland.
Two days later 3CAS closed the wood, stating it was unsafe to the public due to damage caused to the trees by the winter’s high winds.
“The Three Counties has stated to Malvern Community Forest that if it can get the Save Langdale Wood campaign to back off then the public could have access to the piece of wood remaining after the development,” said Mrs Taylor.
“But this offer has the condition that if the campaign continues then the deal is off the table.
“Three Counties had previously stated that 50 lodges was the minimum needed to be economically viable and now have put in an application for 40.
“How can local people believe anything they say?
“This latest tactic is a shameful betrayal of local people and the Save Langdale Wood campaign is continuing in its efforts to save the whole woodland and its ecosystem for future generations.”
In response Ken Nottage, chief executive of the 3CAS, said a private meeting had been arranged with Malvern Community Forest where they made it clear the society was always happy to allow permissive access to the woods and would open it once the area was made safe.
However, once an application to make Langdale Wood an Asset of Community Value was submitted, Mr Nottage said 3CAS were legally advised to keep it closed to protect their ownership.
The ACV application was rejected in March.
“Taking on board the community’s desire to use the woods, we discussed an exciting joint venture of developing a woodland trail,” said Mr Nottage.
“In harmony with our lodge development, we discussed involving the expertise of Malvern Community Forest to allow the local community to enjoy the facility again.
“The Three Counties Agricultural Society is committed to open and honest discussion.
“We are committed to working closely with the community to ensure any proposals sit in harmony with the surrounding environment.”