Tournerbury Woods: Wedding venue 'ought to be ordered to stop' say conservationists as permission looks set to be granted to Hayling Island site to operate

Tournerbury woods (Photo: Contributed)
Tournerbury woods (Photo: Contributed)

Despite the concerns raised by Chichester Harbour Conservancy (CHC), council officers have put forth a recommendation for the approval of plans that could formalise Tournerbury Woods estate as a wedding venue.

The venue has drawn criticism for hosting weddings without proper planning permission for over a decade, leading to a council-enforced enforcement notice in 2020. Ecological concerns regarding the site, which holds various designations such as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and a Special Protected Area (SPA), have also been raised.

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In a letter penned on behalf of CHC and addressed to the council, the request for a stop notice ‘is considered to be proportionate to the harm and continued threat to the Chichester Harbour SSSI’.

The letter states: “A planning stop notice now ought to be served on the applicant by the Council, without delay, requiring the unauthorised use to stop.

“The Conservancy notes the proposal to cap the total number of events during a calendar year but still considers that with no guarantees of supervising large numbers of guests, disturbance within the SSSI and SPA could not be adequately controlled owing to likely impacts from noise and external lighting.

“This would place an intolerable level of supervision on the local planning authority, which The Conservancy does not think it could adequately police and enforce.”

The applicant’s fresh plans encompass a 12m x 33m marquee, an elevated deck area, a Victorian-style gazebo, and the use of temporary structures like toilet facilities, bouncy castles, and a jetty to allow newly-weds to arrive by boat.

Council documents underscore the approval of the application would authorise a ‘new hub of activity’ which would provide ‘potential for benefits to the local economy and local suppliers, as well as increasing visitor numbers to Hayling Island and the wider Borough’.

“Notwithstanding the objections raised to the application by the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and third parties on ecological grounds, both Natural England and the Council’s Ecologist are satisfied that the development could be controlled and mitigated in such a way as to ensure there would be no harmful impacts to protected habitats and species, including the site’s SSSI status.”