Enough is enough - ancient woodland needs protecting
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The Woodland Trust (Coed Cadw), the UK’s largest woodland conservation charity, has expressed its concern about plans by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to destroy an area of irreplaceable ancient woodland, part of its Cwm George and Casehill Woods site near Dinas Powys, as part of its Cadoxton Brook Flood Scheme.
Representatives NRW approached the Woodland Trust earlier this year to discuss the scheme, but insisted until now that no details of the plans be disclosed publically. But NRW held a Public Consultation Session on this on 8 November, so the charity is free to speak out.
The plans would see the construction of a grass covered bund or dam1, across the river valley which could be closed during periods of very high rainfall to create a temporary reservoir upstream of Dinas Powys. The charity’s concern is that the bund would be adjacent to ancient woodland, so if the plan were to go ahead, an area of this would have to be cleared, and more woodland would be damaged by periodic flooding when the reservoir was in use.
The Trust has yet to ascertain exactly how much of the ancient woodland would have to be cleared if the scheme were to go ahead, and is concerned about the extent of the consideration of other options and hydrological assessments undertaken by NRW. Once further information is made available, the Trust intends to consult an external expert to secure a second opinion. Until this has happened the Trust believes it has little option other than to raise concerns publically.
Jerry Langford, the Woodland Trust’s Wales Director says: “Ancient woodland is irreplaceable and cannot be re-created. We are extremely concerned that this does not seem to have been factored into the consideration of options. Protecting ancient woodland is one of our key charitable purposes so we will challenge NRW’s approach as part of our obligation to stand up for ancient woodland and for all the local residents who contributed to the cost of bringing this woodland into our protective management. Casehill Wood is a hugely valued landscape, wildlife and recreational asset, acquired by the Trust following a number of high profile public appeals.”
The Trust is still keen to speak to NRW about means of reducing flood risk in the local area, but points out that the Welsh Government’s own planning policy recognises ancient woodlands as: “irreplaceable habitats of high biodiversity value which should be protected from development that would result in significant damage.2 Moreover, the assumption that damaging ancient woodland is acceptable may well be on conflict with the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which requires that economic, social and environmental issues are balanced in a way which ensures best outcomes for each, and which does not endorse environmental destruction to achieve economic and social benefits. The Future Generations Commissioner has recently emphasised this.
Mr Langford adds: “We are open to discussion as regards any options that would reduce the risk of flooding for homes and businesses in the local area. But we will argue for options that are more compatible with Planning Policy Wales, that is, that protect ancient woodland, and challenge options that are not. We also wish to be satisfied that the need for increased flood protection is not being driven by inappropriately located new building or development of land downstream or by a failure to adopt practices upstream that would slow flood run-off. NRW have demonstrated more innovative approaches elsewhere, and we are not satisfied that they have fully assessed other options here.”
1. At grid reference approximately ST 152 720
2. PLANNING POLICY WALES, EDITION 9, NOVEMBER 2016, paragraph 5.2.9