Call to redesignate ancient trees

Ancient trees should be considered for designation as heritage assets in a bill set to overhaul the current heritage system, according to a scrutiny body.

The select committee on the Draft Heritage Protection Bill has highlighted omissions - including a review of trees - in the forthcoming legislation.

Campaign groups have welcomed the report from the select committee, which was published last week and makes recommendations to government before the Bill is redrafted this summer.

The report urges the Government to review designation of trees as heritage assets "on the basis of their age and close association with people and events".

It also asks for "identification of responsibility within central government for the establishment of a national record of these assets".

The Tree Council had provided evidence to the select committee proposing individual and groups of trees be proactively protected for their cultural, historic, architectural and wildlife value.

Director-general Pauline Buchanan Black said: "This has been consistently ignored over the years so we're delighted." She added that Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) had no teeth in the case of dead or dying trees - negating protection for most ancient trees.

But despite the positive response from the select committee, Buchanan Black said she would be surprised to see the Bill re-drafted to include the proposals.

The Bill is designed to streamline the current heritage protection system and allow greater public involvement in decisions.

The Forestry Commission's London Trees & Woodland Framework manager Jim Smith said: "The Government has shied away from this in the past because of the cost implications so the only problem would be if the cost fell onto local authorities.

"The fact that trees are on the agenda and being mooted in this way is excellent."

Ancient Tree Forum chairman Neville Fay agreed: "It will be a huge achievement if this takes place; it depends on whether the imagination and courage of the legislators is there."

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