Delight for campaigners backed by novelist Jilly Cooper as Yorkshire estate withdraws 4x4 plans

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Campaigners fighting more regular use of 4x4 off-roading vehicles in a much-loved area of North Yorkshire woodland have welcomed the landowner’s decision to withdraw the plans.

But their delight could be short-lived as the Swinton Estate said the move was about reviewing the detail of the application and addressing misconceptions.

Locals opposing the estate’s application for more frequent off-road driving courses had argued that it would destroy the tranquillity of Nutwith Woods, which is part of the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Their efforts to stop the plans were boosted last month by novelist Jilly Cooper, who last month urged Harrogate Borough Council to reject the plans.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “I’m absolutely delighted by the news. More and more we’ve got to protect beautiful parts of the country and the tranquility for the people who go there.

"It would have been absolutely sad to ruin a beautiful place like that.”

The council had been due to deliver its decision on the application on Tuesday but said that Lord Masham, Mark Cunliffe-Lister, had withdrawn the plans on Friday.

Jackie Deverill, who was involved in the campaign, told The Yorkshire Post: “We are thrilled that Mr Cunliffe-Lister has withdrawn the application and are very grateful to him too.

“Nutwith is a beautiful, tranquil woodland much loved by local people. There was widespread opposition to the plans for off-roading, so there are plenty of happy people today.”

There is already permission for forestry plantation on the land and for off-road driving courses on up to 28 days per year.

If the application had been approved, it would have allowed an unlimited number of the courses.

The Ramblers Association, Grewelthorpe Parish Council and Nidderdale AONB’s joint advisory committee had all objected to the application.

And Historic England had recorded its concern about harm to nearby heritage assets, including Hackfall woods.

However, the estate was of the firm belief that additional off-roading courses would cause less disruption than existing forestry activity and result in better maintenance of tracks.

Mr Cunliffe-Lister said: “We have decided to withdraw our application for increased usage of the off road course at Nutwith Woods while we consider the further information our planning officer has requested. There have been a number of misconceptions about the application and we will seek to rectify these.”

The estate had said the courses would bring in much needed extra income to support the loss-making forestry operation and create extra jobs.

Although the campaigners remained unconvinced, they hope to see the estate working more closely with those living nearby on any future proposals.

Tim Harrison, who lives in Grewelthorpe, said: “Swinton should engage with the local community and create a genuine partnership with local residents to seek the best possible way to develop the estate.

“Nutwith Wood and the Swinton Estate is part of the heritage of the whole community and any development must be for the good of the environment and us all.”