United Kingdom

Wildlife trust critcised by residents over plans to build 'hen and stag' do lodges at nature reserve

A wildlife trust which was gifted a 19-acre farm on the condition it be preserved is embroiled in a planning row with locals who oppose its plans to build “hen and stag” do lodges.

Tretawdy Farm and Nature Reserve, in Llangrove, near Ross-on-Wye, was given to the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust (HWT) in the will of Eileen Cook, a wealthy widow who died in 2016 aged 98.

Mrs Cook, who had lived there since 1959, occupied one end of the farm, whilst her only child Pauline Thomas, 60, and her husband reportedly lived in the other.

In 2010, she was granted legal permission to evict her relatives, to whom she had not spoken to for nearly a decade, from the property.

In her will, Mrs Cook left the £400,000 site, which sits on the border of the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to the HWT on condition it was maintained as a nature reserve.

But the charity has enraged locals after applying for planning permission to convert two of its former barns into luxury self-catering accommodation for up to eight people.

“We also wish to raise concerns over the will of Mrs Eileen Cook, who left Tretawdy Farm to Herefordshire Wildlife Trust, which states that it must be maintained solely as a nature reserve. This we believe is being ignored by the existence of and detail of this application.”

Defending the plans, James Hitchcock, wildlife trust estates manager, said it was a “fantastic opportunity” to secure a future for the dilapidated barns.

He explained: “We think it is a use that is sustainable and in keeping with the wishes of Eileen Cook. And it can bring a wider demographic into our site and expose them to the work of Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and the wonderful countryside that is on offer in the lower Wye valley.”

“And as a local charity and business we would also like to play our part in building back Herefordshire and promoting green tourism,” Mr Hitchcock added.

The council is expected to consider the plans later this month.

Residents fear the site will become a magnet for stag and hen parties, as Llangarron parish council, which also oppose the proposals, raise access, noise and traffic level concerns.

One of the local residents, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “By building lodges for up to eight people you will attract not just families but also larger groups. I genuinely think Mrs Cook would be turning in her grave if she thought her beautiful land was being used as some kind of entertainment venue.”

“It was left to become a nature reserve and it is now being turned into a holiday let. Hen and stag parties will use it,” Christopher Thomas, another objector, added.

Others complained of a lack of public consultation around the re-purposing of some of the site, as they claimed the proposals were not what Mrs Cook wanted for her former home.

Paul Lodge, who lives in nearby Llangrove, said: “Many in the local community are very disappointed that this application has been submitted without their knowledge or involvement.

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