What about ancient trees?
Unfortunately and inexplicably, while improving protection for ancient woodland the Government chose not to extend this to all of England’s ancient wooded habitats.
For the first time, the policy separates ancient woodland from aged and veteran trees, essentially lowering the status of these incredible natural monuments by setting out in the text that aged and veteran trees are not irreplaceable habitats. This is clarified in a footnote and the glossary which explicitly states in the irreplaceable habitats definition:
'For the specific purpose of paragraph 173c of this Framework it does not include individual aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland.'
This approach runs contrary to Natural England and the Forestry Commission’s standing advice ‘Ancient woodland and veteran trees: protecting them from development’ (last updated January 2018), which states:
'Ancient woodland, and trees classed as ‘ancient’, ‘veteran’ or ‘aged’ are irreplaceable.'
Aged and veteran trees must be recognised as irreplaceable habitats within the NPPF and they must enjoy the same ‘wholly exceptional’ protection as ancient woodland and other irreplaceable habitats.
This downgrading of the status for our most special trees doesn’t make sense from a Government so bent on building our way out of the housing crisis. When properly considered and planned for, our ancient trees can provide a focal point in new developments, which are fascinating and biodiverse portals into past land uses and cultures.
This is a big problem and must be addressed. The impacts this could have on how planning policy safeguards our most precious trees will be serious.
The Government has asked for the public’s views and we hope you will respond. We need people to support the proposed changes for ancient woodland, and urge the Government to rethink its neglect of aged and veteran trees.
The fight for our ancients continues! Watch out for our new campaign, which will help you to tell the Government exactly what you think of its revisions - the good the bad and the ugly!
As our thinking evolves we’ll look at the wider implications for the environment beyond woods and trees. Please check back for more detail and to find out how you can get involved.