West Wales News Review

Economy, environment, sustainability

Charcoal burners win planning appeal

by Pat Dodd Racher

Llandovery charcoal burners Paul and Kate Hooper have won their appeal to keep a temporary dwelling in their woodland at Allt Cefn Crug.

Carmarthenshire’s planners had told Mr and Mrs Hooper to demolish their wooden dwelling immediately, but planning inspector Tim Belcher decided that, contrary to the opinion of the planning authority, the Hoopers needed to be on the spot for their charcoal burning, which is a long process requiring frequent checks. The drums containing charcoal have to be switched over as each reaches the end of the burn, and in addition a skilled worker needs to be on hand in case one of the drums overheats.

The inspector’s decision, to allow a three-year permission for the small wooden dwelling, means that the Hoopers have time to develop their business, which also produces biochar soil conditioner, logs, sawn timber and woodland honey.

The Welsh Assembly Government’s Technical Advice Note 6, ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities’, allows isolated dwellings in the countryside if they are absolutely necessary for the occupants’ work – for example if they are looking after commercial livestock or have a forestry enterprise. The enterprise has to provide a sufficient income, and this creates difficulties for new businesses which lack proof of income over time.

For the Hoopers, the permission means they have three years to build up their business and to prove that it can support them financially. As inspector Tim Belcher said, “TAN 6 explains that where a case for a dwelling for a rural enterprise worker is not completely proven, permission should not be granted for it. However, it may be appropriate to test the evidence by granting permission for temporary accommodation for a limited period. Three years would normally be appropriate to ensure that the circumstances are fully assessed.”

Barrister James Corbet Burcher represented Mr and Mrs Hooper, and additional support for the enterprise came from LATRA, Llandovery Area Tenants and Residents Association; Transition Town Llandeilo; and Calon Cymru Network, a community interest company working to regenerate the rural economy along the Heart of Wales railway corridor.

Report also published by the South Wales Guardian 


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4 thoughts on “Charcoal burners win planning appeal

  1. Woodland needs proper management. This usually means the “woodsman”
    living on site: read Ben Laws’ books.

    • Yes, agreed. I know that Ben Law had a long struggle to obtain permission. The planning system is no longer fit for purpose, it does not allow for small-scale rural enterprises with low-impact homes.

  2. Y Cneifiwr on said:

    This is a victory for common sense. I know another family living in very similar circumstances in a different part of Wales trying desperately to get planning for their woodland. Drive past the wood, and you would not know they are there. Enter the woods, and you see a clean and very tidy site. For the first time in decades the woods are being properly managed, and are now producing beautiful, natural things. They live with such a lightness of touch on the environment around them that they are setting an example to the rest of us.

    Congratulations to the Hoopers and the planning inspector.

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