It is hugely worrying that after we successfully campaigned for the protection of ancient woodland within Planning Policy Wales (PPW), that the current Welsh Government consultation on its revision appears to propose weaker wording.
Currently PPW9 states that 'ancient and semi natural woodlands are irreplaceable habitats that should be protected from development', whereas the proposed revised version in PPW10 only states that 'every effort should be made to prevent potentially damaging operations'.
We are extremely concerned that this significantly rolls back protection. However, the public now has an opportunity to tell the Welsh Government not to risk the future of our ancient woods and trees.
Raising issue with the Minister
Being concerned about this, we raised the issue with Lesley Griffiths, the Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs. She has assured us that: “It is not the intention to weaken the strong support for ancient woodland through the planning system.”
This being a positive response, but if this is the intention, then we feel strongly that the wording needs to reflect this.
The revised version in PPW10 states “Such trees and woodlands should be afforded additional levels of protection and every effort should be made to prevent potentially damaging operations and their unnecessary loss.”
We fear that the word “unnecessary” in the sentence could be used by developers as leverage within planning law to damage or destroy our ancient woods and trees and their irreplaceable habitats further. This could significantly roll back protection! However, the public now has an opportunity to tell the Welsh Government not to risk the future of our ancient woods and trees.
A disappearing landscape
For centuries ancient trees and woods have been felled for construction, development or roads, often under the guise of ‘national interests’. Historically huge swathes have been replaced with conifer plantations or turned over to open mechanised farming and grazing.
Now ancient woods and trees are often found stranded, isolated, their roots exposed and under constant attack. Recently the Buttington Oak, Wales’ second oldest Oak fell down. It had stood in a field outside Welshpool for 1,000 years. It is safe to say that Wales’ ancient woods and trees have been next to deforested. This historic, cultural, biodiverse vital heritage for future generations is disappearing from our landscape.