Planning changes "can make ancient woodland protection a reality"

The Government has proposed strengthening protection for ancient woodland and veteran trees from development in a new consultation on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) launched yesterday (5 March).

Image: Adam Burton / Woodland Trust
Image: Adam Burton / Woodland Trust

The consultation develops proposals outlined in last year's Budget to use planning policy and legislation to "bring forward more land in the right places". Accessible here, it seeks views on these additional policy proposals by 10 May.

A proposed change to the "areas or assets of particular importance" within the NPPF for which there should be a presumption aginst development, now includes ancient woodland and "aged or veteran trees", alongside sites protected under the Birds and Habitats Directives, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Green Belt land, Local Green Space, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, Broads Authority or Heritage Coast assets.

The consultation's Question 34 asks:

Do you agree with the approach to clarifying and strengthening protection for areas of particular environmental importance in the context of the 25 Year Environment Plan and national infrastructure requirements, including the level of protection for ancient woodland and aged or veteran trees?

Campaigning group the Woodland Trust, which monitors threats to ancient woodlands, has welcomed the proposed changes.

Its chief executive Beccy Speight said: "The Government's decision to amend planning policy to robustly – finally - protect ancient woodland is great news, and will make the words on ancient woodland protection contained in the recent 25 year plan for the environment a reality."

She said England "has been haemorrhaging these incredible irreplaceable habitats for decades, in many cases due to the lack of clarity in the policy wording", leading to "huge chunks of our best woodland to be lost forever, for development which is simply not necessary in that location such as car parks, holiday lodges, golf courses and paintballing centres".

She added: "We'll be asking people to join us in responding to ensure the proposed policy is made permanent and not watered down."

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