The publication of the final report of the Independent Panel on Forestry earlier this year reminded me of a ‘think-piece’ about building in forests which I wrote way back in 2007, when I was a director at Conran&Partners. ‘Forest Village’ set out some ideas about large-scale housing development within existing or new forest, exploring issues of sustainability, lifestyle and development economics which the notion of building houses amongst trees threw up.
During the flurry of interest around the ultimately ill-fated Eco-Towns programme, the idea also caught the imagination of Yolande Barnes, Director of Residential Research at Savills. During 2008 and 2009 we presented ‘Forest Village’ to a number of major land-owners including the Crown Estate, The Duchy of Cornwall and the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission’s initial response was interest and scepticism in equal measure, but in the early months of the new coalition government in 2010 they were challenged with re-examining all options for increasing revenue from the million hectares of forest under their management. Forest Village was dusted down and with the Forestry Commission’s help some preliminary work was done on identifying potential sites. More on that later.
The nascent project was then rather overtaken by events. Towards the end of 2010 the government published draft legislation that would allow large scale sell-off of publicly owned forest. The storm of protest that erupted in response was enough to get the sell-off plans shelved – and suddenly Forest Village looked very ‘off message’. The Independent Panel on Forestry was set up in the wake of this controversy, and it is not surprising that its report earlier this year focussed on the economics of timber production and recreation, rather than development.
So Forest Village remains a fairly unorthodox concept, and is presented in the following posts for discussion rather than as a serious proposal…though if you are a land-owner with 150 hectares of softwood plantation not covered by any restrictive planning designations (SSSI, AONB, etc), located near to transport infrastructure in an area of high projected housing growth, do get in touch!
Next Post: Forest Village #2 – Houses and Trees