Friday, 7 September 2012

Landowner Challenges The Council Over Town Green Status

The landowner Houshang Jafari is attempting to challenge the decision making process of Bristol City Council in their declaration of Grove Wood as a Town & Village Green. This potentially elevates the whole issue to the High Court but before that an initial permission stage is required to filter out any illegitimate claims. Accordingly, a short oral hearing is taking place on Tuesday 13th November 2012 at the Bristol Civil Justice Centre, 2 Redcliffe Street, Bristol, BS1 6GB. The landowner has very little grounds as the decision was facilitated by an independent inspector. The public are welcome to attend, especially those wanting to witness the antics of this self-styled 'lord' and his associates.

Friday, 16 March 2012

April Fools Town Green Celebration 2012

On April Fools Day 2012 campaigners and members of the local community celebrated Grove Wood becoming a Town Green. Whilst this benefits the immediate neighbourhoods of Stapleton and Fishponds as established throughout the application process this is great news for people throughout Bristol who also visit the land. The event was supported by local counsellors Steve Comer and Lesley Alexander who have been committed to preserving the woodland for local people. See here for a few reasons why this is such an important place and visit the Snuff Mills Action Group blog for more photos and a video of the event.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Grove Wood Granted Town Green Status!

On 15th March 2012 Grove Wood was granted Town & Village Green status by the Public Rights of Way and Greens Committee, following recommendations by the independent inspector and senior council officers. This means local residents and the wider public have the legal endorsement to access and enjoy Grove Wood for leisure, recreation and pastimes as they have done 'as of right' for well over twenty years. There were 61 supporting public statements (including 2 late submissions) and a measly 4 objections submitted by the landowner and his paid staff and associates. What was clearly recognised by Anne Nugent, Head of Legal Services for Bristol City Council, was the manner in which the ownership had 'changed hands' but was always under the control of Houshang Jafari, registering it under several bizarre companies like the most recent 'Kingdon of Najafabad Ltd'. Yes, here in the UK you can freely invent different companies for whatever purpose you desire, especially when trying to conceal your business operations. There were more futile objections and illegitimate rantings from the landowner's wife, Katrina Jafari, but these were appropriately dealt with by the chair. You can download the report here in PDF format.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Village Green Application - Final Hearing

The final hearing of the Town & Village Green application took place on 4th and 5th August 2011 at the Council House. The whole process was very fairly managed by an independent inspector who on this occasion listened to the objectors (Mr Jafari and Mr Mair) present their evidence and be cross examined by the applicant (Snuff Mills Action Group) along with a final summing up from both sides. The inspector will submit a report with recommendations to Bristol City Council to take the necessary action, most likely a Compulsory Purchase Order as this is the only way to deal with a landowner who repeatedly abuses planning law and hides behind his associates and employees. The objectors contradicted themselves on numerous points and Mr Jafari announced intentions to place wooden holiday cabins in the flat area beside Blackberry Hill, denied the tracks at the eastern end are made by people, kept referring to the kissing gate as a horse gate and has apparently visited the land with his son every few days despite his wife declaring it a death trap!
Photo : 26th February 2011

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Crown Court Finds Landowner Guilty For Breach Of Planning Law

The landowner's appeal against the illegitimate use of a portacabin has been dismissed; upholding the original Magistrates
sentence of guilty. This was determined by the Crown Court cases (A20100344, A20100346) which ended on Tuesday 19th July 2011, following an adjournment due to their late submission of papers. This results in yet another criminal conviction for breaching planning consent despite many attempts by 'Lord' Houshang Jafari and his Rhino Group who under the directorship of his 'solicitor' John Mair keep transferring ownership to different companies. In their defence, many futile attacks were made on the local Snuff Mills Action Group (SMAG) whilst Bristol City Council has publicly acknowledged the ongoing concerns of the group and the wider public (see PDF).

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Why Ancient Woodlands Matter

Now occupying only 1% of the land, ancient woodlands are all that remain of the original forests of Britain. They need extra protection as they grow on soils that have not been changed by agricultural activity and provide vital habitats for the survival of many species. Accordingly, natural regeneration is preferred. The following links explain why they matter so much for people, wildlife and our biodiversity: Forestry Commission (PDF); Royal Forestry Society; Wikipedia; Woodland Trust.
Photo : 8th April 2011

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Village Green Hearing - 4th April 2011

As reported by BBC Bristol, the hearing will assess whether Grove Wood should become a Town or Village Green. This is being considered in order to protect the rights of local people who have enjoyed open access to the land for many generations, as well as securing this access for the future. An independent inspector will consider all the evidence and write a report to Bristol City Council. This is a public meeting so you are very welcome to attend. So far it has taken four days from 4th-7th April 2011, including a site visit, and has been adjourned for two further days to be announced. The outcome will be posted here once this information is in the public domain.
Photo : 26th February 2011

Free And Open Access Again!

All the cheap and nasty fencing which the landowner used to try to limit public access has magically disappeared, virtually returning the wood to its prior state. People can again enjoy a pleasant walk without having to navigate around unsightly pieces of metal, just as they could three years ago, so it's well worth visiting again.
Photo : 26th February 2011

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Rhino Group Aim To Fell Three Trees And Install Two Portacabins

The solicitor John Mair (and apparent new director of the Rhino Group Ltd as landowner Houshang Jafari is currently in jail) has applied to fell three trees and install two portacabins in their place. This is again being done under the guise of operating a forestry and logging business whilst their real aim is to clear the wood for development. Read their rationale above or online and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Landowner's Son Gets Abusive

What a farce! Instructed by the Environment Agency to remove a large willow, here we have the landowner's son Sajad Jafari (grey shirt) who is a miniature version of his father, the landowner's solicitor John Mair (white shirt) and a Bath contractor (green overalls) struggling to do a professional job with complete disregard for the public footpath. We often moan about excessive Health & Safety law but here is a classic example of why it is needed. Sajad must be the only son of a 'Lord' who mucks around in the dirt but what is a solicitor doing throwing logs around with this abusive character? Not surprisingly, he is registered at the same address linked with Jafari's other 'business' activities: Mr John David Mair, Lion Limited, 10 Marine Gardens, Glasgow, G51 1HH (see Law Society of Scotland).
Photo & video : 17th August 2010

Friday, 30 July 2010

Discarded Oil Containers

These huge industrial 25 litre containers full of used oil have been left in the wood, presumably by the driver of the Scania lorry.
Photo : 30th July 2010

Portacabin Removed

Amazing news! The portacabin was removed from the wood on 29th July 2010, just days before another court hearing. Hopefully the fencing will also be taken away and the landscape returned to its former state.
Photos : top 30th July 2010, bottom 29th July 2010

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Contractors Destroy Deadwood Habitat

Under the guise of now operating a forestry business, Mr Jafari's contractor from Bath has sawn up deadwood habitat which is vital for bats and other creatures. No Protected Species Risk Assessments have been seen by campaigners despite this being arranged by a council officer. Surely this contractor has a reputation to uphold?
Photo : 17th July 2010

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Landowner Jailed At Bristol Crown Court

In a separate matter, on 3rd August 2010 the 58 year old property developer Houshang Jafari was sentenced by Bristol Crown Court to 12 months in jail for endangering an aircraft. Apparently he got into a fit of rage when a helicopter landed on the shared lawn outside his luxury apartment at the Dower House overlooking Stoke Park. He punched and kicked the helicopter before throwing a carrier bag into its blades and destabilising it by grabbing a skid bar.
BBC report
Evening Post report
Photo : The Evening Post, 7th July 2010

Friday, 11 June 2010

Grove Wood Becomes A Local Nature Reserve

Bristol City Council unanimously declared Grove Wood a Local Nature Reserve at its Cabinet Meeting on Thursday 10th June 2010. This means the rights of the wildlife and the people who enjoy all the nature to be found here are protected for future generations. The Council are to be praised for taking such a decision in a poor economic climate. If the landowner does not agree to a management plan developed in liaison with Natural England and other groups, as has not happened to date, the woodland will be acquired via a compulsory purchase order and placed into public ownership. There were 79 supporting statements plus 26 late submissions from Begbrook School, versus a lone statement from the landowner's phony solicitor. So, no more rhinos, deer parks or ridiculous fantasies about its future! This woodland finally has the status it deserves.

Public statements - Public Forum, Item 9
Officer's report - PDF
Plenty of stories at the Evening Post

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Large Trees Sawn Up For Logs

Despite it being nesting season when most landowners avoid any tree works, this one employs a contractor from Bath to chainsaw large trees that whilst fallen aren't completely dead. Besides, any deadwood is normally left to naturally decay in ancient woodlands as part of the important process of biodiversity. Luckily, local people intervened with a Council officer who arranged for Protected Species Risk Assessments to be completed. This unnecessary action is yet more evidence of a lack of good practice and plain ignorance.
Photo : 7th June 2010

Friday, 4 June 2010

Help Make Grove Wood A Local Nature Reserve

On Thursday June 10th from 4pm, Bristol City Council's Cabinet will be discussing whether Grove Wood should be declared a Local Nature Reserve and whether they should consider compulsory purchasing the woods to secure its future for wildlife and public enjoyment. A Local Nature Reserve designation would ensure the wood is properly managed for wildlife, public enjoyment and educational use - what people have been campaigning for since 2008. Please make your email personal and please mention anything that you feel would help make the Local Nature Reserve happen.

You can help make this happen by:
1) Emailing no later than noon on Wednesday June 9th stating why you think the Council should declare an LNR and buy Grove Wood - the criteria for designation are below to help you write your email. title your email: Grove Wood - Cabinet Discussions or something similar.
2) Asking to speak at the Cabinet Meeting on June 10th - you need to request this in the email you send the Council.
3) Joining Snuff Mills Action Group outside the Council House on College Green on Thursday June 10th at 3.30pm to show how much you want this to happen - make and bring banners!

For a Local Nature Reserve to be declared, Grove Wood will have to fulfill these criteria:
1) It should be more than 2ha in size - it's at least 14ha we believe.
2) Capable of being managed with the conservation of nature and/or the maintenance of special opportunities for study, research or enjoyment of nature as the priority concern - it is an ancient woodland that could be managed for wildlife and over a hundred people have written statements to show that they use it for public enjoyment.

To become a LNR the woods should also be either:
a) Of high natural interest in the local context - An ecological report reveals rare plants, protected bats, otters and kingfishers, you could say what wildlife you have seen there in your email to the Council OR...
b) Of some reasonable natural interest and of high value in the local context for formal education or research or - We are in discussions with the Museum service about a big education project to compare Grove Wood with Snuff Mills to find out why they are so different, there is huge potential educational use in Grove Wood, but this cannot happen while it is in unsympathetic ownership OR...
c) Of some reasonable natural interest and of high value in the local context for the informal enjoyment of nature by the public - over 100 people have written evidence statements about their use of Grove Wood for legal sports and past-times as part of our application to have it declared a Town Green.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Legal Amendment Benefits Grove Wood

Click on the image for a larger version. Following a change in the law, any temporary works under the old permitted development rights (which involves movable structures like the portacabin here) will now need full planning approval. It's great the Council have been very proactive in communicating this to the landowner and the public.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Dangerous Metal Straps

Another rusty metal strap which was discarded in the wood following the delivery of fencing in July 2008. Others have been found beside the lower footpath and along the river bank.
Photo : 10th April 2010

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Chainsaws Back In Grove Wood

As the saying goes, "there's no smoke without fire" and there's no sawdust without chainsaws. On Saturday 20th March 2010 the landowner visited the wood with two workmen who were presumably unaware of any restrictions - a familiar tactic of Mr Jafari's. Shortly after they started chainsawing live wood along the river bank they were stopped by local people. This appears to be a blatant contravention of the Woodland Tree Preservation Order and a deliberate disturbance of protected species, particularly the Kingfishers. Blimey, all this in addition to the ongoing court case regards not removing the ugly portacabin. Safe public ownership is surely the only way to preserve this woodland and its wildlife as an important natural resource for the citizens of Bristol.
Photos : 21st March 2010

Monday, 15 February 2010

Portacabin Court Case - 17th February 2010

The current landowner Lord Houshang Jafari (of Downleaze, Sneyd Park as published by the Evening Post) failed to attend Bristol Magistrates Court on 17th February 2010 to face an allegation that he has failed to remove this temporary structure. In another matter, his legal assistant Mair Veritas is claiming Jafari is not responsible for fencing (which may have come from here) being dumped at his other development sites as he lives in Iran, despite being spotted around Bristol. He might enjoy playing the court system but he will have to attend at some point or have judgement made in his absence.
Photo : 6th January 2010

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Village Green Application

Snuff Mills Action Group (SMAG) submitted an application for Grove Wood to become a Town or Village Green on 26th November 2009. Bristol City Council have acknowledged receipt and will be considering this throughout 2010. See their blog for more details.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Portacabin Broken Into

The portacabin has been broken into and many people fear it is now being used as a drug den. This only recently happened since the landowner moved it away from a more prominent position nearer the roadside. Where is his 'duty of care' for the woodland?
Photo : 28th November 2009

Litter At The Entrance

Plastic bags, full of empty drink bottles and beer cans are littering the entrance where the landowner has also left tree cuttings and garden waste. A large commercial pack of bottled water has also been abandoned beside the old metal railings.
Photo : 28th November 2009

Monday, 23 November 2009

Council Grant More Protection For The Wood!

Bristol City Council have taken further action by removing the Permitted Development Rights from Grove Wood. This means Mr Jafari can not undertake any developments normally granted to private landowners, such as building walls or installing temporary structures. This now enforces the level of protection the wood should have had from its conservation area status and we hope to see the temporary fencing also removed as it no longer serves any purpose. The council are also seeking to prosecute for the container not being removed by 22nd October 2009.
Photo : 7th November 2009

Friday, 6 November 2009

Portacabin Moved With A Tractor

On Friday 6th November 2009 the portacabin was shunted further into the wood with an old tractor. In the process the woodland floor was wrecked, leaving deep tyre marks in what appears another attempt to degrade the land. Although the landowner is causing more chaos, people can be reassured the campaign group is as strong as ever and that the Council are making some important decisions. Their action may appear slow at times as everything requires authorisation from their legal department.
Photo : 6th (top) and 7th (bottom) November 2009

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Pruning, Strimming And Fence Clearance

Recent pruning and strimming (21st-23rd October 2009) has resulted in lower branches being removed and saplings being cut back to ground level, despite the TPO. In January 2009, the High Court clarified all trees within a woodland, irrespective of age and including saplings are protected by a Woodland Tree Preservation Order (see here). Apparently the temporary fencing has been cleared in preparation for more permanent structures, possibly walls, and access to the upper footpath will be restricted despite its current assessment as a public right of way. There is concern innocent people are being randomly hired by the landowner or his associates to try to justify the existence of a portacabin. Anyone seeking 'gardening' work should be wary of replying to online advertisements.
Photo : 23rd October (top) and 7th November (bottom) 2009

Thursday, 24 September 2009

More Good News! The Portacabin Is Going

On 24th September 2009, Bristol City Council ordered the landowner to remove the monstrous eyesore of a portacabin within 28 days (22nd October 2009). The Council now seem to be taking all the necessary action to protect this woodland for the public and its wildlife. To read the complete legal notice simply click on the image.
Photo : 18th October 2009

Friday, 18 September 2009

Fencing Blocks Lower Footpath Again!

For several weeks, the landowner's fencing has restricted access and caused potential danger to those using the lower footpath (Public Right of Way No.153). This has occurred on numerous occasions since its installation on 11th July 2008 (see below) but despite the Council enforcing the tree clearance this perpetual issue has still not been resolved.
Photo : 18th September 2009

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Footpath Cleared Of Fallen Trees

On Thursday 23rd July 2009 the Council cleared the lower footpath (PROW153) of all the fallen trees, making the path safer and accessible to more people.
Photo : 27th July 2009

Monday, 27 July 2009

River Frome Flows Freely Again

Although immediately reported to the Council and Environment Agency, the tree which blocked the River Frome for over a year has finally been removed by the Council on behalf the landowner.
Photo : 27th July 2009

Famous Viewpoint

Famous viewpoint showing the landscape before and after the essential tree works. After a few years of regrowth it should look pretty similar. Look how much the ivy has grown in one year.

Council Tree Works

On Wednesday 22nd July 2009 the Council enforced highway regulations by doing the much needed tree works. Now the Council have made the trees safe the landowner can no longer make any claims for their removal. Surely this is better than replanting as once land is cleared it is easier for landowners to submit planning applications. Congratulations to all those involved for saving this line of trees - campaigners, public and councillors.
Photos : 24th July 2009

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

High Court Defends The Grove Wood TPO

The attempt to quash the Tree Preservation Order using section 288(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 has failed. The judge dismissed the case brought by the Council's ex-tree officer as he was not "aggrieved", since he neither owns the land or lives nearby. He also had no legal right to challenge the order as he was not an eligible "objector", despite persistently opposing the Council’s democratic decision making. This means the landowner is the only person who could attempt another challenge but this would involve the Secretary of State. The High Court also recognised the magnitude of public interest.

Cardiff Administrative Court: 10.30am Friday 3rd July 2009
Co/3998/2009: Jonathan Bown v Bristol City Council
Link to full report
Evening Post article, 22nd July 2009

In a separate case the High Court clarified woodland TPOs protect all trees within a woodland, irrespective of age or size:
Link to full report
Tree Care article

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Mysterious Pruning Of Blackberry Hill Trees

Nobody seems to know who did this pruning on Monday 6th July 2009. There was confusion over whether this was the Council, Highways Agency or even a member of the public.
Photo : 18th July 2009

That Fencing Is Down Again!

The temporary fencing obstructs the lower footpath again.
Photo : 18th July 2009

Friday, 26 June 2009

Essential Tree Works

Essential tree works will take place from as early as Wednesday 22nd July to enforce highway regulations and public safety. All works have been subject to public consultation. Branches and trees overhanging Blackberry Hill will be removed (see above), as well as any obstructions on the lower riverside footpath. Bristol City Council will do this on behalf of the landowner who will be charged for the work. Five day notice (09/01588/VD)
Photos : top - 18th July 2009, bottom - 3rd May 2009

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Dangerous Fencing Blocks Footpath Again!

The temporary fencing obstructed the lower footpath, causing further nuisance to the public. Thankfully, the Council ordered the landowner to deal with this, presumably as a Health & Safety matter. This land clearly needs better management. You can object to this dangerous eyesore by writing to the Council using case number 09/30029/WAL.
Photo : 15th April 2009

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Change Of Ownership

Ownership of the wood has been transferred to one of many companies registered at the landowner's Bristol address. The Rhino Group Ltd is described as being involved with the "general construction of buildings and civil engineering works" and "forestry and logging." Not surprisingly, there have been numerous director, secretary and company name changes. According to the ecological survey conducted by Landmark (ref: 08/EC/2013/LJR), 200 trees were originally scheduled for felling - bizarrely published within public statement No.40 at the Council meeting on 1st April 2009 (see here). As suspected, there are commercial interests in this land but the Council will ever grant planning permission to build here so any property speculation is futile.

Survey extract: "As stated earlier, the majority of the c.200 trees scheduled for felling have yet to be marked up for removal. A number of the marked trees did have suitable features for roosting bats, however, the majority of the trees within the site were not considered to have large numbers of suitable roost features. It is understood that the c.200 trees require immediate felling for health and safety purposes."

Monday, 23 March 2009

Council Make The TPO Permanent!

Great news! The Council confirmed the Woodland Tree Preservation Order (TPO 1092) on 1st April 2009. Forty nine people submitted statements to defend the TPO, versus the one statement from the landowner's agent, Mair Veritas. The landowner's only option now is to challenge the Secretary of State over this decision, which given his history is highly unlikely. Read the landowner's insidious objections and the officer's response (South and East Development Control).

Monday, 16 February 2009

Third Attempt At Fencing

How ridiculous! This is completely unacceptable in a conservation area and it certainly restricts the movement of wildlife. The upper path is in the process of being designated a public right of way so the landowner is wasting his time by blocking access. This also demonstrates he is not able to manage such an important riverside woodland. The Council has a statutory duty to protect the environment, so if they invest so much in enforcing building regulations why the lack of standards in this conservation area? You can still enjoy the majority of the woodland so you shouldn't feel put-off going there - this is what the landowner wants. If anything, visitor numbers are increasing as the persistent misuse of planning procedures has encouraged lots of publicity. The lower riverside path has been a public right of way for many years so it is perfectly legal to walk there. If you encounter any problems or see anyone damaging the trees which are protected please contact the Council and Snuff Mills Action Group.
Photo : 2nd March 2009

Protest Walk - Sunday 25th January 2009

About 150 people including local MPs and Councillors enjoyed a peaceful walk through Grove Wood. This was a legal protest against the landowner’s recent attempt to restrict public access to part of the wood. People walked different paths in order to assert their 'right to roam' land which people have done for generations. MP for Kingswood, Roger Berry said "I have been aware of this row for a long time and now it seems we should look for this land to be taken back into public ownership by the city council. This is a woodland area which has been used by local people for a long time and we want it to stay that way" (Evening Post, 25th January 2009). There is the maxim "once a highway, always a highway", whether it is used or not. In the case of Harvey v Truro RDC (1903), Mr Justice Joyce said "Mere disuse of a highway cannot deprive the public of their rights. Where there has once been a highway no length of time during which it may not have been used will preclude the public from resuming the exercise of the right to use it if and when they think proper" (Rights of Way, March 2001).
Photo : 25th January 2009