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Campaigns update: how did we do in 2017?

In this month’s update, we take a look at how 2017 went for ancient woods and special trees. It proved to be quite the rollercoaster ride for the campaigns team! January might signal a new year, but the usual rush of threats to ancient woods and trees has already returned.

How did we do in 2017?

Woods under threat

We’ve seen a drop in the number of ancient woods under threat which, as of December, is down to 684 from 780. This may sound like good news - it is – although the decrease in the figure is partly due to improved data records. So it doesn’t necessarily mean the threat level is falling. It is not. Ancient woods are constantly being lost (and saved) whilst we’re plugging away investigating and challenging insensitive and unnecessary development plans.

But we’re pleased that a large number of the threats in Wales, which were down to site allocations, have now been withdrawn, so these no longer pose a threat to the many ancient woods in the area.

In 2017 we received notice of 174 individual threats that would impact multiple ancient woods or trees, a 9% increase on 2016. Since 2010 we’ve seen a whopping 435% increase in the number of applications we’re working on. It’s brilliant that we are working at extra capacity, with valuable support from our UK-wide network of volunteers helping us to ensure we can defend more of these precious habitats. However, it continues to frustrate and sadden us that this work is even necessary. Especially as the numbers of cases threatening our ancients continues to remain shockingly high.

Five of the threats we have worked on became national public-facing campaigns. Over 21,000 members of the public stood up on behalf of these ancient woods and made their voices heard. All those made a real difference. Thank you to everyone who took part. 

Help protect our precious woodland

Become a threat reporter

Plantations on ancient woodland areas such as LEPO in Scotland or PAWS in England can be gradually restored to their former glory (Photo: WTML)
Plantations on ancient woodland areas such as LEPO in Scotland or PAWS in England can be gradually restored to their former glory (Photo: WTML)

Policy and advocacy

Our ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign saw many twists and turns over 2017. In February, the Government promised (through the housing White Paper) to give ancient woodland “stronger” protection. Whilst we welcomed this, we made it clear that what was proposed could only be effective if the specific policy that protects ancient woods and trees in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was also updated – ideally bringing this in line with the protection already given to manmade heritage. After all, ancient woods and trees are natural heritage assets; they deserve at least the same protection!

During the consultation on these plans, more than 15,000 Trust supporters backed our view.  This message was amplified over October when a further 15,000 messages were sent to ministers urging them to update the NPPF so that any loss to ancient woodland or trees could in future be considered to be ‘wholly exceptional’, as any loss to designated man-made assets is currently.

To know the Government accepts that planning policy is failing ancient woodland is a huge step-change. We’re now waiting for a formal consultation on the NPPF (due in the coming weeks) – this is their only opportunity do the right thing and make the simple amend we have been asking for for so long.

Altogether, 29,936 people took part in these campaigns. We couldn’t have made this huge impact without the help from everyone who took part. A huge thank you from us for being the voice our vulnerable ancients need so badly.

A new chapter for trees, woods and people

The Tree Charter was launched in November last year to huge media attention. To date, more than 130,000 signatures have been added from across the UK. The Charter now exists as a beautiful and inspiring document, detailing the 10 Principles which all centre around the use, protection, expansion, landscape and celebration of the nation’s trees and woods. 

Show your support by signing the Charter.

The Charter for Trees, Woods and People was launched in November 2017 (Photo: Patricia Lovett/WTML)
The Charter for Trees, Woods and People was launched in November 2017 (Photo: Patricia Lovett/WTML)

New year, new cases

We are back to normal, working hard as ever on our caseload. Recently we heard back about one ancient wood that has fallen victim to development:

Proposals to build 20 holiday wigwams within an ancient woodland in Monikie, Scotland, will be going ahead despite our objection. This will result in loss of an area of plantation woodland which is designated as 2b Long-established woodland of plantation origin (LEPO) by Scottish Natural Heritage. This defines a plantation which retains the complex precious soils of ancient woodland that could be restored to their former glory if given the chance. Unfortunately, that will not be the case here. As the development is for a holiday park, the woods will face impacts such as disturbance to breeding birds, vegetation damage and litter from recreational use. The development will result in fragmentation of the habitat, causing a loss of connectivity for trees and wildlife. The construction and ongoing use of the site will also be subject to noise and light pollution. 

How you can help

Did you make a New Year’s Resolution to try something new and worthwhile? Why not help us spot ancient woods and ancient trees under threat and become a threat reporter? This fully-trained network acts as are our eyes and ears on the ground. The Trust is not a statutory consultee so we only know about threats when we are made aware of them, usually by the public. Threat detectors actively search for potentially damaging applications to make sure they are challenged or advised on, where appropriate.

If you’re already a threat reporter, don’t forget to keep looking and sending in reports of what you’ve spotted in your area.

Help protect our precious woodland

Become a threat reporter