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Welsh Government bulldozes regulations to protect ancient trees

The environment is at stake, as Welsh Government is failing to act on its own legislation to protect and enhance the environment for future generations – we won’t lie down as our natural treasures are bulldozed.

We at the Woodland Trust have been keen to highlight the oversights that Ken Skates (Minister for Economy and Infrastructure) has made as a number of infrastructure projects have posed a threat to irreplaceable ancient woodlands.

The Welsh Government has stood out amongst its UK counterparts with landmark regs in the Environment Act, the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act and Planning Policy (Wales), but the rhetoric of these policies are not being met with reality.

Pointless policies?

Planning Policy (Wales) states:
‘Ancient and semi-natural woodlands are irreplaceable habitats of high biodiversity value which should be protected from development that would result in significant damage.’ (para 5.2.9)

Despite the claim to protect ancient woodland in Planning Policy (Wales) little action has been taken to do so. In fact, many of the UK's threatened ancient woodlands are in Wales, vulnerable from schemes directly derived from Welsh Government policy.

The M4 extension around Newport will harm four ancient woodland sites, not to mention the unique Gwent levels habitat. Despite countless objections to its impact from local residents, environmental organisations, and the significantly lower costs and impacts by other proposed routes, the Welsh Government has ploughed ahead with an expensive, destructive and potentially illegal scheme.

Stand up for ancient woods and trees.

Protect our Ancients

A55/A494 Flintshire extension will plunder a significant amount of woodland. (Photo: WTML/Paul Glendell)
A55/A494 Flintshire extension will plunder a significant amount of woodland. (Photo: WTML/Paul Glendell)

Dangerous precedent

This fast and loose approach to our natural treasures is not only against the interests of the Welsh public, it is in fact breaking Welsh Government’s own law to act in the interests of future generations in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Sophie Howe, the commissioner for future generations, broke rank and outed the M4 scheme as a ‘dangerous precedent’ last month, suggesting there could be a legitimate legal challenge if the Government proceeds.

Ken Skates

As if the M4 weren’t enough, Ken Skates took the stage again last week to announce the adoption of the ‘Red Route’ as the preferred option in the A55/A494 Flintshire extension, taking a significant amount of ancient woodland along the way. We have stood up against this proposal from day one, as it has asked the public to choose between two options, both of which destroy ancient woodland.

Bulldozing regulation

Recently our work at the Welsh Assembly has been focused on stricter regulation for woods and trees, influencing the future of forestry and woodland policy in the climate change committee’s Forestry and Woodland inquiry and demonstrating how tree preservation orders can be amended to protect our ancients. But this single-minded approach to development has gone too far – Welsh Government has bulldozed too many of its own regulations, and now it is time for us to act.

We are urging Ministers to think carefully about how their policies are ignoring the laws that protect our natural heritage. This October our call to Protect our Ancients is a chance to pen your own thoughts to the Cabinet Secretaries, Ken Skates (Econ/Infrastructure) and Lesley Griffiths (Environment) and demand action.

Click on the link below and make a difference.

Stand up for ancient woods and trees.

Protect our Ancients