Save Oldhouse Warren ancient woodland

, 22 November 2021
Save Oldhouse Warren ancient woodland
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker © Derek Middleton

By Jess Price

Conservation Officer

Center Parcs want to build a new holiday village at Oldhouse Warren near Crawley, West Sussex. We think this would be a disaster for the environment, and so do the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, CPRE Sussex and the Sussex Ornithological Society. Today, we have we have released a joint statement explaining why.

Oldhouse Warren is an ancient woodland, part of the wider medieval hunting forest of Worth Forest sitting within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Whilst we have nothing against a new leisure facility in the South East, this is clearly the wrong location. This is irreplaceable habitat with a unique ecosystem of soil organisms, fungi, invertebrates, birds and mammals that have evolved together over centuries, even millennia. It must be protected and ideally restored to its full potential.

Everything in local and national policy and guidance says this site should not get planning permission: both ancient woodland and AONBs are highly protected under the National Planning Policy Framework and the Mid Sussex District Plan. Just two weeks ago, the Government pledged at COP26 to end deforestation by 2030. They also finally enacted the new Environment Bill, which sets a target to halt the UK decline in species abundance by 2030. This is not to mention the huge amounts of carbon that would be released if the ancient soils at Oldhouse Warren are dug up for development - such destruction would be irreconcilable with our legally binding commitments to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions and to plant far more trees to absorb carbon and boost biodiversity.

By all rights, the Center Parcs proposal should not get planning permission - but we have seen terrible decisions for wildlife that went against policy in the past, and there is a risk that this will happen again. So we want to put a stop to this proposal now, before a planning application is even submitted, and convince Center Parcs to think again.

Please help us by contacting Center Parcs asking them to look for a better, more sustainable, location. There are so many reasons not to develop on this site, and some of the issues you could mention are:

  • 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 use the email contact form on the Center Parcs website [N.B. when filling in the contact form you will need to select a ‘Type of Enquiry’ but none of the options are really relevant, so just select any.]

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 also 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.

Please help us to save this precious site. You can read more information about our concerns here

Leave a comment


  • Karen Beard:

    I have emailed Johnathon Ash-Edwards

    23 Nov 2021 13:22:00

  • Neil Cheesman:

    I have emailed [email protected]

    23 Nov 2021 14:17:07

  • Donna:

    Whilst I hear some of your points, asking centre parcs to build elsewhere null and voids some of your points for starters. Secondly this is private land for sale, the owner wants to sell so if it doesn’t go to centre parcs then it will most likely become a housing estate for sure, so by trying to turn centre parcs away in protest believe me you are doing more harm than good. So please think very carefully about the consequences of your actions. Centre parcs is certainly the lesser of 2 evils plus do work to maintain woodland.

    REPLY: Hi Donna, this site is entirely ancient woodland and within the AONB. National policy says it should only be given planning permission in ‘wholly exceptional reasons’. We know from past cases, that housing is not a ‘wholly exceptional reason’ and therefore this site would be extremely unlikely to get planning permission for housing. Although Center Parcs do work to maintain woodland, there is no way you could develop this site without digging up large areas of ancient soil and pouring concrete in for the swimming pools, shops, cafes and lodges that make up a standard Center Parcs village. In our opinion the two current options are the landowner keeping the site as it is and hopefully restoring it to be even better, or Center Parcs destroying a large proportion of it. Allowing Center Parcs to develop here would set a terrible precedent that could put all ancient woodland at risk in the future, Sussex Wildlife Trust has to stand against this. We would like them to choose a different location which isn’t entirely irreplaceable ancient habitat.

    23 Nov 2021 18:14:00

  • Marie Louise Charlton:

    Are you for real ? To damage this land would be a crime against humanity Further depleting nature when we are in the grip of a deadly climate crisis? Signing man’s life away Not clever!

    23 Nov 2021 22:32:00

  • Louise Armitage:

    Ancient Woodland needs protecting NOT destroying.
    We are in a Climate emergency !

    23 Nov 2021 22:42:00

  • Ann-marie Botting:

    I can’t believe we even have to petition against this madness… if we don’t stop consuming we’re going to kill every living thing on this beautiful planet!!!!

    24 Nov 2021 19:02:00

  • Peter Le Grys:

    Awful news. Is there a petition to sign?

    ANSWER No – actions people can take are listed in the blog post

    25 Nov 2021 10:24:00

  • Julie Robertson:

    further to Peter Le Grys comment – is there a petition somewhere? for example? It seems to me that petitions tend to do better than lots of individual emails, they certainly gather momentum.
    Please can Sussex Wildlife Trust set one up? I know many people that would sign a petition but not get round to emailing a company and an MP.

    25 Nov 2021 11:43:12

  • Martin D:

    If it is privately owned then the owner can legally sell to whoever comes up with the cash. If those against the idea feel so strongly then they can always get together and match Centre Parks offer. The only way to protect it is to buy it off the owner.

    25 Nov 2021 12:02:00

  • Michael west:

    Could not Sussexwildlife buy this site, perhaps start a gofundme ?

    25 Nov 2021 12:03:00

  • Edward Ewart:

    Any AONB and or ancient woodland near or adjacent should remain protected end of. If it is privately owned this is where by its very nature greed, gain and profit come into the equation from all angles.
    Sad that it is, money will eventually have the final say in this and all the hypocrisy will fall into deep pockets.

    25 Nov 2021 12:09:00

  • We need more ancient woodlands not new buildings in a Climate Emergency!

    25 Nov 2021 12:09:00

  • Alastair Machin:

    We need less development like this in these places-Ancient woodlands. Much less. HS2 has already destroyed so much already.

    Habitats will be destroyed, Ancient tress destroyed, Increase in car pollution and noise will be a very negative aspect of this too.

    This development is completely innappropriate.

    25 Nov 2021 12:29:00

  • Francesca Marcelline:

    I wrote a letter in the comments box to Center Parcs – the reply simply doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t address my comments at all! This was their response:

    Thank you for your email.

    Center Parcs is proud to be partnered with two charities who support children and families. In the UK, we are partnered with the national charity Together for Short Lives, which offers support and respite for families with seriously ill children. In Ireland, we are partnered with the charity Barretstown, who run camps for seriously ill children to help them enjoy their childhood. In addition to our partnerships, between spring 2019 and spring 2020 we have pledged break donations to the following charities, so they can give families in need of support some precious time together:
    · Amy’s Retreat
    . CLIC Sargent
    · Dreams Come True
    · Give Us Time
    · Josie’s Dragonfly Trust
    · Lynsey Ivison Trust
    . Starlight
    · Willow Foundation
    · Winston’s Wish
    You may be eligible for support from one of the charities listed above – please contact them directly if you think you may be.

    We receive thousands of charity requests each year and whilst we try to spread our support as much as possible, we are unable to help every cause. Unfortunately, due to the sheer volume of requests we receive, we are unable to respond to each and every enquiry. If we are able to offer some kind of support, we will contact you as soon as we can.

    We are sorry for any disappointment this may cause, but thank you for contacting Center Parcs and we hope that your charitable efforts are a success.

    Kind regards,
    Center Parcs’ PR Team.

    25 Nov 2021 12:30:00

  • Mary Ann Gordon:

    In these days of climate change and loss of natural habitant we should do all we can to ensure we do not do any further damage.t

    25 Nov 2021 12:34:00

  • Francesca Marcelline:

    You will just get a gobbledegook reply if you send a message to Center Parcs. It would be much better if we flooded their facebook page with our comments instead:

    25 Nov 2021 12:40:00

  • Phillip Ellis:

    From what I saw on the local news last night it did not look like ancient woodland. Can you give exact location so that I can look at area using DEFRA maps.

    Response: Hi Phil, Oldhouse Warren is named on Defra Magic Map, located south east of Crawley, near Grid Ref = TQ29483415 The ancient woodland at Oldhouse Warren, is described as Plantation Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS), this account for roughly half of all surviving ancient woodlands across the UK. They are ancient woods that were once predominantly broadleaf but have since been planted with fast-growing timber crops, often non-native conifers, typically within the 20th century. The trees might not be centuries old anymore but the soil is – and since the land has always been woodland, there is a wealth of life in the soil including dormant seeds, ready to grow if given the chance. Across the UK, restoration is taking place on PAWS sites to gradually remove the conifers and enable the recovery of the ancient woodland habitat to the benefit of the wildlife that depends on it. As well as the irreplaceable soil, many PAWS sites still include lots of other ancient woodland features. In the case of Oldhouse Warren, many important features remain among the Scot’s Pine and Sweet Chestnut plantation that dominate the site. This includes ancient and veteran marker trees and archaeological features.

    25 Nov 2021 15:48:00

  • sarah:

    I have e mailed Johnathan Ash -Edwards

    I have emailed Center Parcs

    25 Nov 2021 16:07:00

  • David Butt:

    There are so many things wrong with Centre Parcs proposal, it’s bewildering. Entirely the opposite direction to that which humanity should be taking. I’m afraid this shows there is a way to go before we start turning things round for the planet. It would be good to buy the site but It shouldn’t be necessary since their should be no way this should ever get planning permission. In a bidding war I wouldn’t fancy our chances. I think the petition idea would really be good to do.

    25 Nov 2021 16:46:00

  • Jane Godden:

    I have messaged Center Parcs through their FB page. I think that any post on their FB page is being removed, as there are none visible.

    25 Nov 2021 17:01:00

  • Noreen Rooney:

    How unfortunate at this time when there is a long standing debate regarding climate change that ancient woodland in the UK is being consider for a Centre Park holiday site ? Aren’t there enough holiday parks dotted around the UK without destroying another important wildlife habitat. We are critical of the decimation of the rain forest but this loss would be just as important in the greater scheme of things. Where will it all end if we don’t take a stance and protect local woodlands, costal areas and areas of natural beauty imperative for the survival of all creatures great and small including humans. These areas are needed for the health and wellbeing of future generations

    25 Nov 2021 17:18:00

  • Paul Lovatt Smith:

    Wouldn’t it be great if, instead of destroying more green space, Center Parks were to buy a housing estate, rip up most of the concrete, bricks and tarmac and replace it with soil and vegetation? Well I can always dream….

    25 Nov 2021 18:01:00

  • Andrew Howard:

    I am appalled at this proposal. The wider Horsham Crawley area is already massively over-developed and getting steadily worse. The road network can well do without the massive surge of traffic that this development would bring. And all this is before I begin to consider the impact upon woodland clearly of very high environmental value to wildlife, and people.
    I know and enjoy Centre Parks, but not here.

    25 Nov 2021 18:03:00

  • Nicola Coughlin:

    I have emailed Centerparcs

    25 Nov 2021 18:21:00

  • Jennifer Bromfield:

    I have emailed Jonathan Ash-Edwards and Centre Parcs. Reading the reply above from Centre Parcs I am horrified at their lack of understanding and vision.

    25 Nov 2021 19:41:00

  • Owen Mitchell:

    Have emailed Center Parcs…pointing out this is ancient forest…we complain about destruction of the Amazon rainforest yet this is our equivalent. Asked them to have a serious re-think!

    25 Nov 2021 20:17:00

  • Clare Baker:

    Would just second the idea here that Sussex wildlife trust could buy the land? I helped crowdfund purchase of part of a Scottish estate for community ownership. Some major foundations also contributed (clearly this is a big amount and SWT members might not be able to do it alone!). If this land is in private ownership then the best way to preserve it is to bring It into the global commons.

    25 Nov 2021 20:44:00

  • Pat:

    Leave Mother Nature alone! Why does the human race want to destroy everything? Find somewhere else that is not so important to the climate and nature!!! Nature was here before humans so leave it alone!!!

    25 Nov 2021 22:47:00

  • Mark Holmes-Siedle:

    The only way to stop development is to attempt to buy the land that is to be exploited, unfortunately anywhere in the south east of England is going to be very expensive.
    I would donate £100.00 if Sussex Wildlife organises a fund.

    26 Nov 2021 06:28:00

  • Sarah Gore-Booth:

    The best way by far to stand against this awful plan is to open a petition on Change,org (it only takes a few seconds to sign and circulate, and more people will do this than will write take time to write to the councillors. I’m trying to do this but short of time so Sussex Wildlife Trust, can you do this). Writing to Center Parcs is obviously pointless and i dont believe writing to the councillors will have as much clout as thousands of names on a petition.

    26 Nov 2021 08:56:00

  • Clare:

    I’ve emailed Jonathan Ashworth and FB-ed and emailed Center Parcs.

    26 Nov 2021 08:56:00

  • Peter Stimpson:

    Thanks to SWT for organising the campaign against this wholly inappropriate and ecologically disastrous proposal. I am contacting MPs and center parcs as suggested. I would also strongly support a) a petition; b) a fund raising appeal by SWT to buy this ancient wood.

    26 Nov 2021 12:28:00

  • Jo Burton:

    I emailed Henry Smith,MP for Crawley. His response was as follows:
    Thank you for your email regarding Center Parcs’ proposals for a holiday site in Old House Warren, Worth.

    Center Parcs’ proposals for a site in Old House Warren fall outside the Crawley boundary, and will be a matter for Mid Sussex District Council to determine.

    If the plans, however, were to go ahead it would of course have a direct impact on our town. Given that Old House Warren lies within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Beauty I think it is unlikely permission will be granted.

    26 Nov 2021 13:41:00

  • Adrian Wells:

    this is the wrong place for this developement

    26 Nov 2021 14:04:00

  • jill behrens:

    What are we all desperately trying to do….Plant more trees and protect our environment not build more fun parks and housing. No matter how they sell it you cannot replace Ancient Woodland. Demands on resources are already at breaking point. We fully back the need for Green and open space, Woodlands and Wildlife protection. If nothing else The Pandemic has proved that this is The Most Important Recourse for All our Well Being. Not more Development.

    26 Nov 2021 14:43:00

  • David Smith:

    As this piece of ancient woodland is in private hands, the owner should be contacted by one or all of the main conservancy groups, i.e. RSPB, Sussex Wildlife Trust, Woodland Trust, Sussex Ornithological Society etc for a joint campaign to start fund raising via an on-line portal to purchase this piece of very rare woodland.
    There are birds breeding there that even avid birdwatchers have not seen for years, like the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and Goshawk to name two.
    All the while this owner is looking to sell, this land is at risk!!

    26 Nov 2021 16:13:00

  • Rob Carter:

    The only way to guarantee the preservation of this ancient woodland in perpetuity is for it to be bought by SWT and related bodies. Surely a feasibility study is warranted, with crowd funding as a possible component.

    26 Nov 2021 17:11:00

  • Michael Kirwan:

    Whilst a new Center Park would generally be welcome, this is clearly a wholly inappropriate site for one and planning pemission should not be given

    26 Nov 2021 17:24:00

  • Andy:

    I did try to contact Centre Parks on the link you provided,but there was no tab for complaints or comments about planning.

    REPLY You can use the email contact form on the Center Parcs website, unfortunately when filling in the contact form you will need to select a ‘Type of Enquiry’ but none of the options are really relevant, so just select any.

    26 Nov 2021 19:36:00

  • Anoutia:

    Is sussex wildlife able to start a petition? I agree with previous commenters that you’ll probably get a better result that way rather than individuals sending emails.

    26 Nov 2021 20:32:00

  • Alison de Villiers:

    This proposal seems completely against the government’s push for increased trees in the uk and totally goes against promises made in COP26. Planning should not be granted.

    26 Nov 2021 21:25:00

  • Jen:

    Leave the remaining ancient woodlands alone and may I add shingle banks our country is dangerously diminished in habitats for wildlife

    27 Nov 2021 08:24:00

  • Roger Suffolk:

    I would support a crowd funded purchase of this site.

    27 Nov 2021 10:22:00

  • Jane Wilde:

    We are losing our ancient Woodlands at a terrifying rate and and a centre Park development is not essential, will further deplete valuable and rare habitats and contribute to global warming. There is no sustainable case for this development at all

    27 Nov 2021 10:48:00

  • Anne Knowles:

    I agree that the best way forward is for SWT To join up with the Woodland Trust, RSPB, and other interested bodies to look at ways of purchasing the property through crowdfunding.

    27 Nov 2021 15:10:35

  • James Crompton:

    I would support a crowd funded saving of this sight, please make it so. I regularly donate to the SWT and love nothing better than to donate to save woodland, people power for nature ! Well done everybody on here !

    28 Nov 2021 09:13:00

  • Gillian Harris:

    It is vital to keep these precious ancient woodlands. To many have been lost already. We must those preserve those that are left for future gebnerations to enjoy and look after the the diverse life that lives in them. With the awful desrution that has gone on and added to our climate change I urge you to do all that is possible to keep them as they are. I would support crowd funding to raise money to buy the woods and a petition for as many people as possible to sign.
    Gillian Harris

    28 Nov 2021 11:37:00

  • Derek/Marilyn Williams:

    Writing to Centreparcs – pointless as the developers will probably ignore public comments. Much better for a public petition organised by an amalgamation of the protection/environmental Organisations. This is currently a much loved area of the High Weald with roads and infrastucture totally unsuited to a much higher volume of traffic and any development of the scale proposed will totally destroy the existing natural habitat. At a time of concern over excessive development and climate change we should be protecting all that is part of the natural environment.

    28 Nov 2021 14:02:00

  • Colin Upton:

    The Government must surely reject any such proposal. It does not matter how many new forests you plant, if you continue to destroy existing woodlands, climate change will continue, and more people will die due to air pollution. ( a problem this Government continues to ignore ). While I agree that buying this land for nature would be ideal, we must not be drawn into a bidding war with the likes of Centre Parks, as this would send out the wrong message to anyone lucky enough to own conservation grade land. With Ash die-back ravaging the countryside, we must fight and fight again to save the countryside, and all the wildlife that continues to decline.
    I will of course write to my MP, but will he listen?

    28 Nov 2021 17:17:00

  • Richard Arthur Lintott:

    Could you not start a campaign to buy the woodland as we did for the extra area at Ebernoe. I am sure we could do it

    29 Nov 2021 09:50:00

  • Tony Cook:

    Posted on their Facebook page and email sent to our MP Jeremy Quinn.

    29 Nov 2021 10:22:00

  • Donna Everest:

    I have contacted Center Parcs directly.

    29 Nov 2021 15:22:00

  • Nick Phillips:

    I have emailed Center Parcs via their website, as a previous customer.

    29 Nov 2021 17:56:00

  • Paula Chatfield:

    Please would you create some pre-populated responses to make it easier to write to everyone? (Woodland Trust are good at doing this for e.g. Government consultations, so maybe they could help in this joint endeavour?)
    Also is this pre-planning application? And are there some local Plan policies we could quote?

    30 Nov 2021 09:40:00

  • Roger MARTIN:

    Was COP26 all for nothing? Can’t we purchase Old House Warren from the current owner to ensure it is preserved forever!

    30 Nov 2021 11:00:00

  • Sheila Marshall:

    This is appalling and should be stopped!
    It is wrong that ‘the chosen few’ should enjoy ‘a nice holiday’ at the expense of not only a very important site for nature but also of the quality of life for future generations!

    04 Dec 2021 11:38:00

  • Re: Comments about Petition

    We’ve seen that a petition has been set up. Whilst we are really encouraged that everyone is so keen to show solidarity against this development, we feel that, at this time, there is more impact in people writing directly to Center Parcs to show their concern. It is quite easy to sign a petition and also easy for Center Parcs to ignore it. However, by making them respond to individual complaints, we hope that the company will really have to consider the distress it is causing. If Center Parcs submits a planning application, then the charities will work together to make it easy for as many people as possible to object to the application and show support for our cause.

    06 Dec 2021 09:14:30

  • RE: Why don’t the Wildlife Trust crowdfund/Appeal/Team up with RSPB and Woodland Trust to buy the land?

    We understand why people would like us to buy the land, but at this time it is not up for sale. Even if it was, the average cost of woodland in this part of the country is about £10,000 per acre, so at 550 acres, we would estimate Oldhouse Warren costing about £5.5 million! As charities we have to think carefully about any acquisitions, not least because of the long-term costs of managing sites for wildlife and people. We also think it is a sad indictment of planning controls if charities have to buy land to protect it from unsuitable development, when the planning legislation and policy is meant to be there to ensure only sustainable development occurs. Ancient Woodland and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are very highly protected under national policy. This should be enough for Center Parcs and the landowners to realise that this is the wrong place for their development, without a charity having to step in.

    06 Dec 2021 09:15:52

  • Dawn Penney:

    Why can’t lottery funding ever be used for protecting ancient woodland/environment?

    08 Dec 2021 09:51:00

  • Dawn Penney:

    I have emailed the relevant MPs.
    One reply has asked for my address. Does that mean if you don’t live in Mid Sussex you can’t object? (To Old House Warren)
    I live in West Sussex.

    ANSWER MPs always ask for addresses as they are only allowed to work on issues on behalf of their constituents, not others. However, in this case, we just want MPs to understand the strength of feeling against the proposal, rather than actually take an action right now. If a planning application is submitted to Mid Sussex District Council, then absolutely anyone is allowed to object. If that happens, we will make sure we have any easy way for everyone to do that via our website. Thank you for taking the time to contact the MPs, your support is really appreciated.

    08 Dec 2021 17:47:00

  • Stuart Riches:

    Paul Lovatt Smith, perfect comment. Instead of taking every fragment of remaining green space and concreting it, we could make our existing, concrete jungles habitable again. That way people wouldn’t need recourse to the fake countryside experiences that Centre Parcs provides, and they could spend the extortionate money it costs to stay in one for a week on something nice (or even helpful to others).

    25 Apr 2022 11:18:00

  • peter collins:

    Is there anyone at Center Parcs?
    I emailed Guest Services at the end of November last year – no response
    I chased on 18th December – no response
    I emailed their Press Office on 18th December – no response.

    They clearly don’t give a damn.

    04 May 2022 16:22:00

  • Phillip Bailey.:

    Leisure facilities should be built near new housing estates, to reduce car usage, then we can plant mixed broadleaf woods, flora and forna to enhance it, keep ancient woods for study, interest, school visits, separate.

    15 May 2022 15:43:00