New planning rules have at last given ancient trees and woodlands the highest possible protection from development.
“At the present time, the clear and immediate danger to ancient woodlands, particularly in Staffordshire, comes from HS2 which is set to destroy or partially destroy Ravenshaw Wood, Roundhill Wood, Fulfen, Hanch Wood and John’s Gorse and many more beautiful sites.”
Government amendments to the National Planning Policy Framework come after almost two decades of campaigning by the Woodland Trust, which has had to defend the UK’s oldest and most important trees and woodland habitats from insensitive and unnecessary development.
Michael Fabricant says “At the present time, the clear and immediate danger to ancient woodlands, particularly in Staffordshire, comes from HS2 which is set to destroy or partially destroy Ravenshaw Wood, Roundhill Wood, Fulfen, Hanch Wood and John’s Gorse and many more beautiful sites. I hope the framework will have some impact on HS2 and its future design.”
Beccy Speight, Chief Executive at the Woodland Trust, says: “We welcome this shift. A country that cares for its future cares for its past. It’s absolutely right that ancient woodland is afforded the highest possible protection from development – it is one of our top wildlife habitats and there is so little of it left.
“And it’s absolutely right that ancient and veteran trees should be considered equally irreplaceable and given the same protection – the UK is unique in the number it has and the species they support. They are both exceptional natural assets. This new policy makes it clear that from now on, loss or damage should only be considered in ‘wholly exceptional’ circumstances, putting them on a par with our best built heritage.
“This is a victory for common sense and a huge step forward, although effective local enforcement will be key. The new changes come into effect immediately; we now expect to see a shift down in number from the current 586 damaging live applications in play as planners and developers take this change into account. ”
“Development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons.”
Michael adds: “Earlier this year, Prime Minister Theresa May announced welcome plans to overhaul England’s planning policy to afford ancient woodland much stronger protection.
“New wording proposed by the Government stated “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons.”
“However, ancient and veteran trees were not included in the policy amendments, effectively downgrading their status. It meant these special trees would be at risk from development, resulting in the loss of precious habitat.
“Ancient woods and special trees are increasingly recognised as one of the UK’s most precious natural assets. These living monuments have evolved over centuries into our richest, most biodiverse land habitats – home to hundreds of species of insects, mammals, birds, fungi, mosses and lichens. Their protection is important for future generations.”
Michael is Deputy Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Ancient Woodland.