The Government has been accused of failing to give enough protection to England’s ancient woods.
New national planning guidance on biodiversity leaves England’s protection of ancient woods years behind that of Scotland and Wales.
After the publication of the guidance by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM), Woodland Trust senior public affairs officer Ed Pomfret said: “The Government is still playing catch-up when it comes to planning protection for ancient woods in England.
“Wales and Scotland already have stronger protection than this new guidance provides and it is disappointing that the ODPM has not taken this opportunity to ensure ancient woodland is fully protected.”
But he also said the guidelines were a welcome first step in the right direction: “The Government has gone from having no national protection at all for ancient woods in the planning system to providing a limited safeguard for this beacon of our natural heritage.
“Yet this is undermined by a caveat which means that irresponsible local authorities can still build on ancient woods. The trust is aware of nearly 400 woods under threat in England and we would have liked the Government to fulfil commitments it has made in other policies to protect ancient woodlands from development.”
The guidelines call on local authorities to identify ancient woodlands in their areas that do not have statutory protection.
Councils are also asked to deny planning permission for anything that would mean loss or deterioration of woods unless the needs and benefits outweigh the loss.
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