The Woodland Trust says it is delighted proposals for a relief road that would have destroyed ancient woodland near Harrogate have been shelved.

The road, planned to run around the north and east of the town, would have cut up and fragmented wildlife habitats, meaning the precious landscape of Nidd Gorge would never have been the same again.

The Trust launched a campaign to fight the proposal from North Yorkshire County Council, which resulted in 4,718 objections being sent – 40% of all the objections the council received.

This supported a local community campaign involving the Harrogate & Knaresborough Alliance for Less Traffic, Woodland Trust volunteers and others who argued against the damaging environmental impact of the new road.

Adam Cormack, head of campaigning at the Woodland Trust said:

“We are delighted to have fended off this inappropriate road scheme and would like to thank all those who joined us in standing up for ancient woodland. It’s a great example of what can be achieved when local people come together to defend their woods and wildlife.

“This area has a beautiful and striking landscape rife with wildlife. To have destroyed and fragmented that landscape would have been totally unacceptable.

“Ancient woodland is one of our most precious natural habitats. It cannot be moved. It cannot be replaced. Once it’s gone it’s gone forever as no amount of new planting can compensate for what’s been lost.

“We hope the proposals do not re-emerge in the future but if they do we will be ready to continue our fight, especially as we believe this development flies in the face of national planning policy.”

The National Planning Policy Framework, which sets out the Government's planning policies for England, was changed last year after decades of campaigning by the Trust, to say that any development resulting in the loss of ancient woodland or ancient and veteran trees must be refused unless wholly exceptional.

Ancient woods have been continuously wooded since at least 1600 AD and have taken centuries, even millennia, to develop and evolve into unique and valuable habitats. The undisturbed soils of ancient woodland lay the foundation for habitat on which some of the UK’s rarest and most sensitive species thrive. Only 2.4% of the UK’s land cover is ancient woodland.

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Notes to editors

For media queries only please contact Dee Smith on 01476 581121 or deesmith@woodlandtrust.org.ukPublic enquiries should be directed to 0330 333 3300.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:  i) protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable, ii) restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life, iii) plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,000 sites in its care covering over 22,500 hectares. Access to its woods is free.