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Launch of new ancient woodland guidance for planners in England

The new manual is a one stop shop for planners  (WTML / Sally-Ann Smurthwaite)
The new manual is a one stop shop for planners (WTML / Sally-Ann Smurthwaite)

Ancient woodland is a precious irreplaceable habitat that should be protected. Every day we campaign tirelessly to save these unique places. After all, ancient woodland now only makes up 2-3% of the UK. So last year when our survey of planners in England showed that 43% of respondents wanted more information on ancient woodland when it comes to planning, we jumped at the chance to provide it. 

The result is our new planners' manual. We have collaborated with a range of ecologists from the Association of Local Government Ecologists and private sector organisations to draw together a complete compendium on ancient woodland, ancient trees and planning. It is the go-to guide for planners and local authorities working on planning applications or local plans that involve ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees.

One stop shop

Most of this information already exists but our survey showed that planners tend to be short of time and face challenges finding these many disparate sources. By providing a ‘one stop shop’ we hope we can make their life easier and improve protection for ancient woodland and veteran trees in one fell swoop.

The manual defines exactly what ancient woodland, aged and veteran trees, and wood-pasture and parkland are and how these can be identified. From this it goes through how they can be effectively buffered and finishes with mitigation and compensation measures when it comes to developments that could impact these habitats.

Protecting our irreplaceable ancient woodland is vital (Photo: WTML)
Protecting our irreplaceable ancient woodland is vital (Photo: WTML)

Most importantly it brings together lots of examples of how local planning authorities have dealt positively with ancient habitats in their local plans and development management decisions. We hope that these best practice examples can be shared and rolled out to other local authorities across England.

This guide isn’t just for planners, it will also prove useful for communities preparing neighbourhood plans and for anyone responding to planning applications and policies involving ancient wooded habitats.

Get your copy

This week we are sending our new manual out to planners in every local authority in England. So if you are a planner who works for a council keep an eye out for a parcel in the post! We hope it will be useful in empowering them to plan positively for these irreplaceable habitats.

Download the manual here

We are also more than happy to send out more hard copies. If they would be useful to you please just get in touch with us at or 0330 333 3300.

Whilst we have been developing the planners’ manual, things have continued apace on the national stage. A positive aspiration has been set out in the government’s Housing White Paper to improve the protection of ancient woodland in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) when it is revised. The revised NPPF is due out for consultation in the spring. In the meantime we shall be maintaining pressure on the government to make this aspiration a reality for ancient woodland by amending paragraph 118 in the NPPF and making the loss of ancient woodland ‘wholly exceptional’.

Back our call for better protection for ancient woodland and special trees across the UK – support our Save Ancient Woodland campaign.

Ask ministers to give ancient woodland better protection

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