Campaigners have received an early Christmas present after plans for a controversial holiday park at Delamere Forest were given the chop.

A government inspector has over-ruled Cheshire West and Chester Council’s strategic planning committee decision to grant permission for the 70-cabin scheme by the Forestry Commission/Forest Holidays.

Councillors had concluded there were ‘very special circumstances’ to justify the holiday village being in the green belt.

But secretary of state Eric Pickles called in the application for a public inquiry and on Thursday, December 18 inspector Wenda Fabian published her recommendation that it should be rejected. She weighed up benefits such as the ‘significant economic benefit’ against the harm to the green belt and decided that, on balance, the scheme was inappropriate.

Lead campaigner Nigel Gilding is overjoyed at winning the battle ‘to preserve the character and tranquillity of the forest’.

He commented: “Including the consultation period, this has been going on for over 30 months and we have had many low points where we thought all was lost. Thankfully, the tenacity of all those involved has resulted in overturning what was a poor decision by CWaC’s strategic planning committee.

“Members of that committee should learn from this decision that they cannot continue to rubber-stamp development that does not accord with planning guidelines.”

He added: “Thankfully, my trust in democracy has been reinstated as a result of national intervention, it’s a great shame that it had to go that far.”

In a joint statement, the frustrated applicants said:  “Forestry Commission England and Forest Holidays are expectedly disappointed that the Delamere Forest planning proposal has been unsuccessful, despite being found to have significant economic benefits, visual improvements, access and traffic management improvements and providing enhanced biodiversity for the forest.

"We are currently reviewing the Secretary of State’s decision and considering our options concerning our ambitions at this site.”

CWaC passed the plans in October 2013 but the decision was automatically referred to the National Planning Casework Unit as a departure from national policy.

Secretary of state Mr Pickles called in the application which led to a public inquiry in Winsford held over four days in June.