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Campaigns update: a new town, a flood scheme & some Christmas cheer!

It’s a real mixed bag (or should I say stocking?) for the campaigns team this winter holiday in terms of threat cases. We have new cases, wins to celebrate and losses to contend with this month.

(Photo WTML: Ben Lee) Holly branches have long been used to decorate homes in winter.
(Photo WTML: Ben Lee) Holly branches have long been used to decorate homes in winter.

Unwanted Christmas presents

The Christmas presents we really didn’t want this year. We have new threats to ancient woodland from proposals to create a whole new town, a nuclear power station and a flooding scheme.

The construction of a new town in Fareham, Hampshire, could be devastating for the neighbouring ancient woodland known as Dashwood. The plans suggest Dashwood to be used as a Suitable Alternative Natural Greenspace (SANG) for the development. As this designation occurs to protect conservation areas in the vicinity, it is counterproductive to use a valuable habitat, in this case ancient woodland, to protect another. Both should be protected. Placing this designation on the site is likely to result in heavy recreational use which will disturb the woodland’s fragile ecosystem and its wildlife. An alternative greenspace area should be chosen.

With this proposal we’d also expect a 100 metre buffer including 50% tree cover (native species) between the woodland and the development to provide protection from the impacts. Buffers are vital for protecting ancient woodlands from issues such as recreational use, litter, light and noise pollution. We have sent in an objection to the SANG designation and recommended the addition of buffers.

Nuclear power is often a controversy in itself, but especially so when plans could result in damage to two or even three ancient woods. We’re currently dealing with such a case in North Wales, where the associated grid connection, still in the early stages of planning, would also cause damage to other ancient woods in the area. We have begun discussions with both National Grid and Horizon Nuclear Power in an effort to prevent destruction to these irreplaceable habitats.

Trees might absorb water but flooding ancient woodland soils for extended periods of time can irreparably damage them. Yet Natural Resource Wales (NRW), much to our surprise, has suggested flooding part of an ancient woodland and one of our own woods at Cwm George to manage flooding in the Cadoxton river catchment. This would cause ongoing and long term damage and some loss to the ancient woodland habitat. It would also pose safety risks to the many people who visit our wood. We are responding to NRW’s consultation on flood protection schemes, asking them to consider other less damaging options that are available.

Bah! Humbug

We’re not happy about the losses we’ve heard back about this month. Where’s the festive spirit?

A development of 55 houses in West Sussex next to an ancient wood has been approved, despite our objection and a recommended 30 metre buffer between the development and the wood. The council accepted the applicants’ proposal of 15 metres for the buffer. Buffers need to be considered on a case by case basis to assess the specific range of impacts development can cause to a woodland in that particular location. Our view is that it’s inappropriate to assume a 15 metre buffer will suit in this case. A buffer of at least 50 metres is required for pollution or trampling.

Further north, we’ve seen mixed results. The Cumbria Waste and Minerals plan has seen two ancient woods removed from site allocations for minerals extraction which is a huge plus - these woods need never have been in the frame. However, two more have remained in the plan. The fact that it has been agreed that buffers of around 50 to 100 metres will be required if development occurs does lessen the blow somewhat, but we are still concerned for the future of these woods.

(Photo: WTML/Nick Spurling) Tring Park
(Photo: WTML/Nick Spurling) Tring Park

Some Christmas cheer!

We do have plenty of good news to end this year on. Several applicants have opted to save the woods and trees their plans had previously put under threat. It’s always heartening to see our advice making a positive impact for woods and trees.

Greno Woods near Sheffield faced loss and damaging impacts from an application to build an outdoor classroom. However, after our objection highlighting the negative impacts and loss to the woodland this would cause, Sheffield Wildlife Trust withdrew its application. Thank you Sheffield Wildlife Trust for looking out for the ancient woodland under your care.

Similarly, we’ve seen the National Trust withdraw an application to build multiuse paths on its site at Wimpole Hall. This is a huge area of ancient woodland and wood pasture. Whilst we approve of making woods accessible and inviting for visitors, laying hard standing paths causes permanent damage to the fragile soils that make ancient woods what they are. So we’re pleased to hear of this decision. Thanks National Trust!

Two mature oaks in an ancient woodland have been saved from felling near Chapel St Leonards in Lincolnshire. The applicant intended to remove them to increase light to their property. However, after our objection they have now withdrawn the application. Thank you for this enlightened decision.

We’re also thrilled to see stronger guidance from Natural England in its latest ‘standing advice’ on ancient woodland and veteran trees. Find out more.

Thank you

Whilst we haven’t won every fight to protect ancient woodland over the past year, we’ve had a huge amount of success. Public campaigns have saved ancient woods in Tirpentwys from quarry plans, and Begbie Wood from a chicken farm, we’ve saved an ancient tree from a Burger King and headed off holiday chalets in ancient woods all over. We could not have achieved all this without supporters and volunteers like you, and the efforts of local campaign groups on the ground.

Our policy work aims to make cases like these history. With your support, we’ve made a big impact this year with government accepting that planning policy is failing our ancients. They promised to rectify this. But we still need your help to convince them to take the right step. Let ministers know you care.

We need your help

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As this is our last news update of the year from the campaigns team, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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