Online guide launched to explain ancient woodland protection to planners

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has launched a new training tool for planners to help protect ancient woodlands and trees.

Image: Mark Coleman (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Image: Mark Coleman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Developed with the Woodland Trust, the one-hour online training module gives "an introductory level understanding" of planning’s role in protecting ancient woodland and trees, and of the tools available to planners.

The chartered body, which has over 25,000 members, points out that large-scale housing, intensive agriculture, roads, campsites, even golf courses sited inappropriately can have adverse "edge effects" on ancient woodlands and wildlife.

The module emphasises the mitigative measures that can be enforced through strong conditions and legal agreements with developers to reduce the effect of indirect impacts on ancient woodland - such as producing an access management plan for the woodland, providing alternative natural greenspace to reduce visitor pressure, sympathetic design and use of lighting to avoid light pollution, measures to control noise, water and air pollution, and woodland restoration and management.

Government guidance now recommends that local authorities should refuse permission for developments that result in the loss of ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees except in exceptional cases.

But the training points out that ancient woodland is not a formal statutory designation, and the evidence used to designate a site as ancient woodland could still be open to challenge by developers and other parties.

RTPI policy officer Sarah Lewis said: "There are many case studies in the training module that demonstrate that it is possible for planners to utilise existing legislation, tools and best practice to undertake high quality developments that respect and protect ancient woodlands and trees.

"The fact that ancient woodlands and trees are irreplaceable makes it all the more important that we do our part in protecting them."

Woodland Trust president Clive Anderson said: "I am proud that the Woodland Trust and the RTPI have come together to work on this important module. By understanding the value of ancient woods and trees, I hope planners will give full weight to the benefit trees in general and ancient woodlands in particular are to all of us."

The module is available on the RTPI Learn website (under "RTPI bitesize modules"). It is free to registered users, who need not be RTPI members.

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