Paintballing in protected green belt woodland harms biodiversity

The use of protected woodland in the west Yorkshire green belt would undermine the ability of new trees to grow and harm its biodiversity value, an inspector determined, dismissing an appellant's claims that the impact would not be materially greater than that allowed under permitted development rights.

The woodland was subject to a tree preservation order and covered generally mature, deciduous specimens of various species. It had been heavily grazed by animals, reducing the number of young trees, but the inspector decided that increasing the paintball use beyond the 28 days allowed under Class B of Part 4 to schedule 2 of the GPDO 2015 would materially exacerbate the position. Planting new trees would not mitigate this harm, he ruled, nor ensure that the scheme did not have a detrimental impact on the character of the landscape.

The disturbance to ground flora and a reduction in botanical diversity would not be addressed by large buffer areas on the edges of the woodland. An extended habitat survey suggested that there was more species diversity in the centre of the woodland including locally important bluebells, ramsons and dog mercury which were indicative of an ancient semi-natural woodland.

Inspector: Declan Beggan; Written representations

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