Center Parcs and Oldhouse Warren

In summer 2021, Center Parcs announced they would be progressing plans for a new holiday village at Oldhouse Warren, an ancient woodland near Crawley in West Sussex. Ancient woodland is an irreplaceable habitat that is highly protected, so we are extremely concerned about these proposals and have been urging Center Parcs to reconsider and look for an alternative, more suitable location.

We wrote to the Center Parcs CEO in October 2021 expressing our concerns, but only received a short response, acknowledging receipt of our letter but saying nothing of the content. We then sent another joint Open Letter to Center Parcs setting out our concerns in more detail and following on from our published a Joint Statement last year. 

We received the following response:

Thank you for the note you sent regarding our plans for the potential development of a new Center Parcs village in West Sussex.

As part of the pre-planning process, we will conduct detailed ecological surveys which will inform our designs and construction environmental management plan – at the moment, we haven’t completed this work so we don’t have anything more specific to share, but rest assured that we take our responsibility to the environment and forests extremely seriously. We very much build our villages to nestle into the woodland, retaining as much of that forest’s characteristics as possible and we have proven over the last 30 years that our presence actually enhances the biodiversity of the woodland.

Please be reassured that our approach to this development will be a collaborative one, with the local authority, local community and with groups, like yourselves, that have a specific interest in the site.

We look forward to being able to share more information and detail when we have it.

It appears that Center Parcs don’t understand the fundamentals of ancient woodland and that under planning policy it is protected from development. Regardless of claims of 30 years of experience managing woodland sites, we all know that development of this scale within ancient woodland will inevitably result in irreversible loss of habitat and species, as well as the long-term deterioration from the introduction of thousands of visitors every year.

We cannot see how a 900 lodge holiday facility can ‘nestle into the woodland’. A massive development such as this has no place within the protected High Weald AONB and its forested landscape; Oldhouse Warren is ancient woodland, one of the most environmentally precious habitats in the UK. We again urge Center Parcs to find an alternative site that will not result, in irreparable harm to a vital home for wildlife.

Why Oldhouse Warren is the wrong location for Center Parcs in Sussex?

  • The proposed site at Oldhouse Warren is entirely ancient woodland, an irreplaceable habitat that has been around for centuries and potentially millennia. It must be protected, not destroyed.
  • Development in ancient woodland is prohibited unless there are “wholly exceptional reasons.” Building on ancient woodland goes directly against national planning policy and all the relevant local plans and policies in Sussex
  • Building here would damage a protected AONB landscape. Oldhouse Warren forms part of the historic Worth Forest, an ancient woodland landscape within the High Weald AONB. The government’s own definition of an AONB is a “fine landscape…whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them.”
  • The development would harm the neighbouring SSSI ancient ghyll woodland, a sensitive site that is currently undisturbed.
  • Building here goes directly against the Prime Minister’s commitment to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030. This promise is based on the flawed assumption that 26% of land in England is already “protected” by AONBs, National Parks and other designations. Oldhouse Warren sits within the High Weald AONB and will be destroyed by the Center Parcs proposal, not protected.
  • Development here is a barrier to nature's recovery and the creation of a functioning Nature Recovery Network. Oldhouse Warren is located within a Biodiversity Opportunity Area – an area identified as presenting the best opportunity for enhancing biodiversity - and is part of the wider ancient Worth Forest, which links habitats across Horsham and Mid Sussex districts.
  • Development here will cause a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, releasing the carbon stored in ancient, undisturbed soils and felling trees that currently absorb carbon dioxide. This is clearly not compatible with our legally binding Net Zero targets or the government’s pledges in the recently-published England Trees Action Plan.

How you can help

1. Please help us by contacting Center Parcs and asking them to look for an alternative location.

You can email Center Parcs at: [email protected]

You can also Tweet @CenterParcsUK or post on their Facebook Page using the hashtag #SaveOldhouseWarren

2. Contact the local MPs and the leader of Mid Sussex District Council

We are asking Center Parcs to reconsider and look for another, less sensitive location - but if they pursue their current plans, development of Oldhouse Warren must be opposed and rejected by the relevant authorities.

Please contact the Leader of Mid Sussex District Council – Jonathan Ash-Edwards and the relevant MPs for the area – Jeremy Quinn, Mims Davies and Henry Smith. You can Tweet @JAshEdwards or post on his Facebook Page using the hashtag #SaveOldhouseWarren

If you live in Mid Sussex, you can also contact your local councillors.

3. Some local people have independently set up a campaign group to help raise awareness of the threat and prepare to fight the proposal. Please see their Facebook page to find out more.

More information

You can read some frequently asked questions about the proposal and our campaign against it here