Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to overhaul England’s planning policy that will afford ancient woodland far more robust protection.
For decades we have led the charge for ancient woods to be given the same protection as our manmade heritage. It’s now proposed that the National Planning Policy Framework will state “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons.”
Moving in the right direction
This decision to amend planning policy to robustly protect ancient woodland is great news, and not before time. The proposed change will make the words on ancient woodland protection contained in the recent 25 year plan for the environment a reality.
England has been losing these incredible irreplaceable habitats for decades, in many cases due to the lack of clarity in the policy wording. Short-term decisions based on weak policy have allowed huge chunks of our best woodland to be lost forever, for development which is simply not necessary in that location, such as car parks, holiday lodges, golf courses and paintballing centres, despite often staunch local opposition.
The proposed change of wording will provide greater clarity for local planning authorities, speed up decision making and save resources by heading off inappropriate applications and subsequent long drawn out campaigns against them.
This is potentially a huge step forward and one that the Government must be given due credit for, following through on its manifesto commitment.