2018 was incredible for woods and trees. We had lots of successes, especially the big change in England’s planning legislation. But the new year is already shaping up to be a busy one – we still have lots of work ahead of us and we need your help.

Looking back on a successful year

Let’s take a moment to congratulate each other for everything we achieved in 2018. With your help, we responded to more than 280 cases where developments threatened our ancient woodland. That’s over 100 more than in 2017. Our responses ranged from just one letter outlining our position to our HS2 campaign, which included an 18 page consultation response alongside 30,000 objections from our brilliant supporters. 

One of our biggest wins was the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The protection of ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees in England was put on a par with the best of our built heritage for the first time. What a result!

We couldn’t have done any of this without you and our award-winning threat detector volunteers. Thank you.

Speaking up for ancient woods at Gatwick

To begin the new year we have a slightly unusual threat case - Gatwick Airport’s draft master plan. This reserves and earmarks the surrounding land, which includes a number of ancient woods, for future expansion. Gatwick calls this ‘safeguarding’. In fact it’s the opposite – saving the land for a hypothetical future infrastructure project like a new runway. This is needlessly locking in land which has huge biodiversity value.

The plans don’t pose an immediate threat as no development plans are currently on the table. No government policy backs expansion either. But if any new runway proposals were to progress through planning in future, it would likely be considered a National Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP). The NSIP process emphasises public engagement and this consultation could form part of Gatwick’s evidence.

The consultation period has now ended and we're awaiting the results. You can still tell Gatwick that the ancient woodland surrounding the airport should never be built on and definitely not reserved for a possible future runway – tweet your views to @Gatwick_Airport.

Holiday site plans put on hold

Elsewhere, two ancient woods are facing direct loss from glamping pod proposals: Newent Woods in the Forest of Dean, and Longwood, Norfolk. Both plans have previously been rejected due to their impact on ancient woodland. Longwood was originally submitted before the revised NPPF was published, so we’re hopeful these proposals will be rejected once and for all. That’s just what happened to plans for holiday lodges in Taynuilt, Scotland. They were rejected recently on the grounds of their impact on ancient woodland – a resounding success!

Policy disappointment in Wales

After the big win on planning policy in England last year, things didn’t go so well in Wales. The Planning Policy Wales Edition 10 (PPW10) published at the end of the year didn’t match the NPPF wording of ancient woodland loss only in ‘wholly exceptional reasons of national significance’. The PPW10 wording states ‘unless there are significant and clearly defined public benefits’. This means the concept of necessary loss of ancient woodland remains built in to planning policy.   

Also in Wales, our M4 campaign continues after the vote on plans for a relief road has been postponed. The route will destroy more precious ancient woodland, so we will keep piling on the pressure until the decision is made. 

How you can help in 2019

We’re sure to face more challenges this year, but we’ll celebrate our successes too. You can help in lots of ways – keep your eyes peeled for threats in your area, add your voice to our campaigns and share our vital message: we can’t afford to lose our valuable ancient woodland.

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