A WEALTHY landowner who illegally chopped down 13 acres of protected woodland has appealed a notice calling on him to restore the land.

James Hyatt bought Pondtail Wood, in Muddleswood Road, Albourne, in March and by May had felled hundreds of trees, imported hardcore and dug waste and drainage channels on the woodland floor.

Following protests and coverage in The Argus, South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) issued an enforcement notice requiring him to remove all dumped soil and repair drainage channels by August 23, to prepare the area for replanting.

A further notice required him to replant 625 trees and care for them for ten years.

However, solicitors working for Mr Hyatt, who lives in a country estate in nearby Wineham Lane, Bolney, have appealed the enforcement notice.

The contents of the appeal are not know at this stage with the Planning Inspectorate yet to send the details to the SDNPA.

However, the last-minute appeal (issued on July 11) has suspended the start date of the enforcement notice (July 12), meaning that Mr Hyatt is not required to do anything to the site.

Tim Slaney, director of planning at SDNPA, said: “Wherever possible we try to work with site owners to fix breaches in planning and took careful legal advice before issuing the enforcement notice.

"We have a strong record in defending significant planning decisions at appeal and are determined to see Pondtail Wood restored.

“We appreciate that the local community is as frustrated as we are with the damage to the site and delays to its restoration.

"In the meantime our stop notice remains in force, we are visiting the site regularly and can confirm that no additional work has taken place.”

The stop notice prevents Mr Hyatt from cutting down any more trees at the site, which is in the South Downs National Park.

Campaigners from the nearby villages described the news as disappointing but vowed to continue to work to protect the area.

The Argus has previously reported that Mr Hyatt has breached planning rules on a number of occasions in the past.

The landowner and businessman has broken rules in both Sussex and neighbouring Surrey when attempting to build homes on protected land.

He has also breached rules in building his own house, Westridge Place, in Bolney.