June 14, 2008

Ecologist Set to Appeal Decision to Block Garden Shed

A RENOWNED ecologist who is not allowed to build a shed on his Northumberland estate last night slammed national park planners for ignoring his environmental work there.

Dr Bill Pickering, 58, a qualified botanist and plant ecologist, is seeking planning permission to build a shed in the garden of his cottage, The Badger, in the hamlet of Swindon, near Hepple.

Dr Pickering, who splits his time between the cottage and his home at Moor Place in Gosforth, bought the country retreat in 1983.

In 1990, he acquired five acres of land around The Badger which includes pasture and river corridor. He has worked to improve and diversify it, carrying out conservation work and plant surveys. His estate boasts 40% wild plants.

Dr Pickering wants the shed to store the machinery and equipment he needs to maintain his land.

But his second planning application to Northumberland National Park Authority has been refused. And a proposal to change the use of his garden from agricultural land was also thrown out.

Both applications had been recommended for approval by officers and Dr Pickering is likely to appeal. He last night accused the authority of acting with determined disregard for the environmental gain of what he has done with his land.

Dr Pickering said: "How is a member of the general public to manage five acres without storage? Fifteen million gardeners, not to mention farmers and landowners might ask the same question.

"The environmental value was never even mentioned either by the national park or by their committee. This is in a national park which lives and dies on improving the environment.

"The national park is allegedly initiating schemes for environmental gain all the time but if the general public do it at their own initiative, at their own expense - not the taxpayers, on their own land, instead of being encouraged, they are strenuously deterred."

Dr Pickering is also angry that other than the planning officer who handled his first application for a shed, none of the decision makers has visited his land.

The recent applications attracted two objections from neighbours on the basis his garden intrudes into a field, spoils their views and could be built upon in future. A national park spokeswoman was unaware of the reasons the proposals had been refused.

She said the authority was keen to help Dr Pickering find a solution that he would find acceptable. Dr Pickering has written articles for the Northumbrian magazine, Country Landowner and the Botanic Society of the British Isles News.

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