Environment Secretary George Eustice today set out the Government’s plans for people and nature after the UK’s exit from the European Union and how it will aim to achieve faster economic growth whilst aiming to enhance our environment.

Following the announcement by the Prime Minister for Britain to ‘build build build’ to fuel the country’s economic recovery, the Secretary of State aimed to reassure an audience that it is focused on a green recovery, building back Britain in an environmentally sustainable way that allows it to focus on the protections that matter most for the species and habitats affected. It also announced a new process for Environmental impact Assessments.

It also announced a £4 million pilot for ‘green prescribing’. If successful, this will be scaled up across the country, making full use of our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to ease the burden on the NHS. These pilots will aim to help people understand how best to connect people, especially those hit hardest by Covid-19, with the British countryside.

Here is the Woodland Trust’s response to it:

Darren Moorcroft, CEO, Woodland Trust said: “Irreplaceable habitats such as ancient woodland and veteran trees must have the highest protection and be safeguarded from destruction and damage. Sitting in the front line of our fight against the climate and nature emergencies, they must be off-limits to development, if “Build Back Better” is to have any true meaning. Whilst the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) did increase protection for the nation’s precious ancient woods, unfortunately to date, we have not seen the right words turn into meaningful enforcement.

“Applications that will damage or destroy these irreplaceable habitats are still happening. We still have over 400 English cases of ancient woods and trees threatened by unsustainable development, over 1000 across the UK, the highest since our records began. Each case undermines talk of a green recovery.

“It is encouraging to see that people’s connection with nature is to be at the heart of the nation’s ‘green recovery’, and that the health and wellbeing benefits which have been so profound during the pandemic, are being recognised and harnessed with funding for ‘green prescribing’ to help people connect with the nation’s green spaces. However, the first step for Government must be to ensure these green spaces are protected so they are available for all to enjoy.”

Notes to editors 

For media queries please contact Andy Bond in the Woodland Trust press office at andybond@woodlandtrust.org.uk

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:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. 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 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free.