Eco campsite scheme in East Hoathly criticised

Plans to create an eco campsite on a 10 acre plot of woodland at Gray Wood, East Hoathly, have been met with a barrage of criticism by local people.

The scheme, which was recommended for approval by Wealden District Council, goes before planning committee members on Thursday.

In the council chamber will be more than 50 neighbours, identified by flowers in their buttonholes.

A 400-signature petition had been handed to the council beforehand and 40-plus letters from objectors, as well as some from supporters, have been submitted.

The proposal was lodged by Dan Puplett and Helen Richards from Hove who currently use the site for producing charcoal and growing fruit and vegetables.

They have employed experts to implement a long-term forestry plan to improve the land by removing invasive plants such as rhododendrons, coppicing trees and increasing biodiversity of a lake.

They also want to remove 46 square metres of decrepit buildings, raise young plants, add bat and bird boxes and create eight camping pitches comprising bell tents, a yurt and small tipi and firepits plus shower and composting toilet facilities.

They assure neighbours dogs, amplified music, swimming and vehicle movements after 10.30 would not be allowed. The site would open for four months of the year.

Their scheme has divided village opinion. Some offer their personal support - saying Dan, a full-time carpenter, is gearing the site to a family-centred place and Helen works as well as being a full-time mum.

They praise the commitment and hard work they have both applied to the scheme and the land has been cared for and used respectfully.

But it is opposed by the Woodland Trust and has roused fury amongst some neighbours.

They say Dan has already felled many trees, using his chainsaw constantly.

One neighbour suffers from allergic asthma and fears it is exacerbated by charcoal burning - a view backed by a Tunbridge Wells respiratory clinician.

Others point out the site is ancient woodland, a large car park has already been created, it is not in keeping with neighbours, invades privacy, will see an increase in noise and disturbance and cause risk of fire during the summer months.

A further 47 people signed a detailed letter criticising the scheme which, they say, does not comply with the Local Plan, damages protected species and could contaminate the land.

They also provide a list of 21 campsites within a 5-6 mile radius of Graywood.

Another objector says the couple want to live on site but this was not in the application.