The draft National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is an inherently pro-development document with economic growth at its heart.
Some protection for ancient woods and trees has been retained from Planning Policy Statement 9. However, a caveat remains in place that overrides this protection if the benefits of development 'outweigh the loss'. In the context of such a pro-growth document this caveat is cause for great concern.
The NPPF strives for the default answer to planning applications to be ‘yes’, yet in 2009-2010 the approval rate was already 85%.
With 452 ancient woodlands currently under threat from planning applications this is a worrying approach and means protection is undermined by the context within which it sits.
We welcome the Government's stated wish to see the planning system enhance the natural environment and we know actions such as tree planting can enhance communities and go hand in hand with genuinely sustainable development. We would like to see a stronger emphasis on this in the final version of the framework and hope this is what the consultation period will result in.
Sue Holden, Woodland Trust CEO