What's the problem

Hermitage quarry in Kent, where expansion threatens 32 hectares of ancient Oaken Wood (shown in the background) (Photo: WTML)

What remains of this rare and precious habitat can be saved!

The Woodland Trust has been challenging development plans that threaten ancient woods and trees since 1999. Sadly, it is increasingly clear that this is just one of several threats facing our ancient habitats across the UK. And they are ill-equipped to cope.

Help us defend our most precious woodland habitats from threats like these

The impacts of flawed decision-making can be seen relatively quickly, while the impacts of wider threats are less obvious in the short term but are just as serious - especially when looking at them as a whole.

  • The creeping menace to ancient habitats from pollution and climate change
  • Over-grazing and land-use changes for intensive agriculture which can ravage delicate ecosystems
  • The onslaught of pests and diseases which continue to put pressure on already rare and dependent species
  • Slow progress on the Public Forest Estate in restoring damaged sites and improving their biodiversity
  • Neglect and premature ‘tidying away’ especially of ancient and veteran trees

In addition, grant limitations are blocking landowner investment in restoration, and hindering new planting – both of which are urgently needed. And with no centralised official effort to comprehensively identify woodland or to monitor losses how can we understand what we have, and what we are losing?

What needs to change?

The best way to make a real, lasting change is to update planning policy which currently favours development. Currently any planning application which impacts ancient woods or trees should be rejected unless the “benefits of and need for the development in that location” outweighs the loss of the habitat affected. This loophole has led to huge losses, as short term economic benefits are often deemed to outweigh the long term value of ancient woods or trees.

Not ‘better’ protection – real protection

We have had enough of warm words and no action. Our precious woods - so important, not least for wildlife, but for us all - will disappear before our eyes.

Real protection extends over and above legislation (although that would help!). We need a shift in attitude towards these precious habitats, especially a greater understanding of their cultural value, and a stronger impetus to protect them. There are practical measures that will help too.

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