Ground-breaking State of UK Woods and Tree report launched  

14 April 2021

We are delighted to launch our State of UK Woods and Trees 2021 report. It’s the first report of its kind laying out the facts and trends on the current state of the UK's native woods and trees.  

It includes a wealth of data on the current state of our woodlands. The evidence is clear: we need to take urgent action in all corners of the UK. 

Having a clear picture of the current state of our woodlands will help us to better understand their vital role in:

  • tackling climate change
  • improving our wellbeing
  • recovering nature.

Read the report’s key findings and priority actions

State of UK woods and trees

State of UK woods and trees

The State of the UK’s Woods and Trees report is the first of its kind focused on the UK's native woods and trees. It outlines their current extent, condition and wildlife value, benefits, threats and what is being done to help them.

See the story at a glance

Ancient woods saved from M4/A48 link road proposals

8 April 2021

Precious ancient woodlands and their wildlife are now safe from the threat of the M4 to A48 link road outside Cardiff.

In December 2020, many of you joined our campaign to reject four potential road options posed by Vale of Glamorgan Council. Their aim was to ease congestion and help future growth in the region, but the route options were a threat to seven irreplaceable ancient woods.

The Welsh Government has now decided not to fund the project under the new Wales Transport Strategy, Llwybr Newydd. The council will no longer pursue the link road plans, meaning all seven ancient woods are safe once more.

Thank you to everyone who took part in our campaign to protect these irreplaceable ancient woodlands. Special thanks to Vale Communities for Future Generations, the local community group that supported our campaign.

Call for a new law for nature's recovery

1 March 2021

Ask Boris Johnson to include legally binding targets in the Environment Bill to stop the decline of nature by 2030.

Half of our wildlife is in long-term decline, including a third of all woodland wildlife species. Nature needs our help.

But despite calling on world leaders to stop nature's decline by 2030, the Government’s landmark Environment Bill currently includes no such target. Government needs to put the promises it has made on the international stage into law. The bill must include a legally binding target to halt the decline of our natural world by 2030 here in the UK too.

As a member of Wildlife and Countryside Link, we’re working together with other organisations to turn the tide and help nature thrive.  

Add your voice to the call for change. Sign the petition now.

HS2 Phase 2a to go ahead

26 February 2021

Works can begin on the second phase of HS2 after the High Speed Rail (West-Midlands to Crewe) Bill received royal assent in parliament on 11 February. 

We're pleased that as part of the bill, HS2 Ltd has committed to reporting annually on its impact on ancient woodland across Phase 1 and 2a. 

But we remain frustrated and disappointed. More must be done to hold HS2 Ltd to account for its actions and prevent further unacceptable treatment of irreplaceable habitat. With more fellings expected before bird breeding starts in spring, we'll keep pressing the Department for Transport to hold HS2 Ltd accountable.

Irreplaceable habitat saved from cancelled Hereford road schemes

9 February 2021

The scrapping of two controversial road schemes has saved ancient woods and trees in Herefordshire. We're grateful to Herefordshire County Council for the decision, and to local campaigners who stood beside us with unwavering determination to save these ancient woods.

Hereford Southern Link Road had already been given planning permission. It was set to destroy much of Grafton Wood and another unnamed wood, and would cause indirect damage to Hayleasow Wood, known as Newton Coppice. Many ancient and veteran trees would also have been at risk.

The preferred western bypass route would likely have affected ancient Hunderton and Rough Coppice and several ancient and veteran trees. The road would also have flattened notable lime trees and Belmont Abbey wood pasture.

The cancellations are good news. But we remain cautious that plans for an eastern bypass are also on the table under the Government's new transport package proposals. Rest assured we'll continue to scrutinise the potential impact on ancient woods or ancient and veteran trees.

HS2 to report on ancient woodland impact yearly

8 February 2021

We are delighted that HS2 Ltd will now be required to produce an annual report of its impact on ancient woodland. The welcome change comes after the passing of a government amendment to the High Speed Rail (West-Midlands to Crewe) Bill, also known as the HS2 Phase 2a Bill.

Our chair, Baroness Young, tabled an amendment to the bill in the House of Lords in December 2020 seeking twice-yearly reporting on the impact of the project. In response, the Government tabled Amendment 13. This was debated and passed in the House of Lords before being confirmed in the House of Commons in January.

While the reporting will only take place once a year, we are pleased that it will cover the whole of the HS2 route, not only Phase 2a.

Long-awaited Environment Bill delayed

26 January 2021

The Government has announced it will further delay the Environment Bill after running out of parliamentary time for it to pass. This latest delay will set it back some months. Following the ‘report stage’ debate of the bill on 26 January, it is not expected to return to the House of Commons until May. 

This is a frustrating setback our natural environment can ill afford. We are in the midst of a climate and nature emergency. Time for recovery is running out.

As the hosts of COP26, the November 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, we must prioritise our environmental credentials and leadership.

Without the bill in place, no new laws can be passed to protect and enhance our natural environment. That includes the establishment of the Office for Environmental Protection, the body that will hold national and local government to account.

The delay must now be used to make important improvements to the bill. Its legal protections and ability to hold governments to account must be strengthened.

One such improvement would be to pass a new amendment, New Clause 5. We tabled this amendment with our coalition partners, Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL), Greener UK, and Hilary Benn MP. It would require the UK Government to set legally binding targets for nature’s recovery by 2030 and turn its international commitments on environmental protection into law.

We will keep you up to date on any developments.

Call for a strong Environment Bill

20 January 2021

The Environment Bill is a vital piece of legislation for the future of our natural environment. It will set out the Government’s responsibilities for protecting the environment, which were previously determined by EU law. For the sake of nature, the bill must be as strong as possible. 

On Tuesday 26 January, the bill will be debated in its ‘report stage’ by MPs in the House of Commons. We've worked with our coalition partners, Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL) and Greener UK, and Hilary Benn MP to table a new amendment (New Clause 5) with cross-party support. The new amendment would require the UK Government to set legally binding targets by 2030 for nature’s recovery. It would turn its international commitments on environmental protection into law. We are asking all MPs to vote for the clause in the debate. 

We must show that the environment is a public priority and needs to be high on MP’s agendas. Nature is in crisis and we have an opportunity to come together and make a united call for the Environment Bill to be as strong as possible for nature. 

Please join us in emailing or tweeting your MP to ask them to:

  1. Attend the debate on 26 January
  2. Support amendment NC5 which puts nature’s recovery into law. 

Our friends at Greener UK have produced a full briefing for MPs that want more information.

Find your MP's details, including email address and Twitter handle. 

October-December 2020

Quick fact

In 2020 we campaigned to defend ancient woods and trees in more than 280 cases.

Fighting for ancient woods

A proposed link road between the M4 and A48 near Cardiff threatens six ancient woods. The Vale of Glamorgan Council held a public consultation on potential routes, but every one impacts the woods. The consultation closed in December - we'll keep you up to date on developments and keep fighting to save these woods.

After we opposed the proposed A62/A644 Link Road in West Yorkshire in 2019, the plans have now gone back to the drawing board due to the impact on ancient woodland. We're grateful to local campaigners who raised the alarm and worked with us to make councillors take notice of our concerns. The woods aren't safe yet, but we’ll be watching progress to make sure ancient woodland stays safe.

Thousands of you supported our campaign for the A27 Arundel bypass to avoid ancient woodland, and your voices were heard. After four long years, the chosen route won't destroy any ancient woodland, although it will result in loss and damage of veteran trees, so still causes a net loss to the environment.

Celebrations

We announced the Tree of the Year 2020 winners in England, Wales and Scotland. Vote for Scotland’s Survivor Tree to be crowned European Tree of the Year.

Street tree campaigners were celebrating after Northampton Borough Council agreed to improve its tree policy. Supported by our street trees team, residents worked with the council to find affordable solutions for local trees.

Sheffield City Council issued an apology to the public after the Local Government Ombudsman published its report on the fellings. For eight years, we've worked with all those involved and after positive recent developments, including a new tree strategy, we welcomed the report and the apology.

Influencing policy

The Agriculture Bill became law in November. Ambition in the policy must now turn into action on the ground and we’ll continue to influence Government to make sure schemes support tree planting and natural regeneration.

More than 3,000 of you took part in our England Tree Strategy campaign in summer 2020, calling for strong targets to tackle climate change with woods and trees. We presented your comments to the minister responsible, Zac Goldsmith. Watch his response. Now we await a strategy to drive real change - it’s expected this spring. 

The Big Climate Fightback aims to establish 50 million trees over the next five years. With a campaign for each nation of the UK, you joined us in urging all four governments to increase native tree cover to fight climate change.

We supported Scottish Environment Link's Fight for Scotland’s Nature campaign, calling for stronger post-Brexit legislation to ensure the country’s nature was not put at risk. Thousands signed the petition and while we succeeded in achieving improvements to the bill, gaps still remain. Read more about the ongoing Fight for Scotland's Nature.

An overhaul of England’s planning system threatens woods and trees and your ability to defend them. Over 9,600 of you responded to the public consultation through our campaign, asking for woods and trees to be given greater protections. Ask your MP to press for our proposals to be included in any changes to the planning system. 

Did you know?

We've been defending ancient woods and trees from HS2 for over a decade. We won't give up the fight for these irreplaceable habitats.

The latest on HS2

Baroness Barbara Young, chair of the Woodland Trust, tabled two amendments to the High Speed Rail Phase 2a (West-Midlands to Crewe) Bill in the House of Lords. One of those would have required HS2 to report on impacts to ancient woods every six months. In response, the Government tabled amendment 13 which was passed. While the amendment will see reporting only take place once a year, we are pleased that it will cover the whole of the HS2 route, not only Phase 2a.

As at least 20 areas of ancient woodland were set to be destroyed by HS2 in autumn 2020, HS2 already had already committed a catalogue of errors. We're pressing the Department of Transport to hold HS2 accountable for its actions, and prevent further unacceptable treatment of irreplaceable habitat.

Protecting trees and woods

HS2 rail link

HS2 is a grave threat to the UK’s ancient woods, with 108 at risk of loss or damage. We can’t let this happen. 

Take action now

July-September 2020

Ancient woods saved

Several ancient woods were saved from Eastleigh Borough Council’s development proposals, including our Upper Barn & Crowdhill Copses after successful campaigning by local residents, support from Mims Davies MP and our own objections.

Influencing policy

Thanks to your emails to MPs, 19 attendees were at the September All-Party Parliamentary Group meeting to discuss the England Tree Strategy and proposed changes to the planning system.

As a proud member of the Climate Coalition, we supported its six key asks of the Government ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review. You joined us in sending a message to the Chancellor we want a cleaner, greener future at the centre of public spending.

We hosted a talk on urban trees as part of the National Association for Local Council’s Rebuilding Communities webinar series. Nearly 100 local councils attended to discuss how to put trees at the heart of communities.

The latest on HS2

Chris Packham took his legal fight against HS2 to the Court of Appeal in July. Our expert Luci Ryan helped to shape his evidence on how the scheme impacts ancient woodland. Three leading judges heard the evidence but the Court of Appeal later rejected the case. The judges said they gave their decision only 'light scrutiny, as it was a government decision'.

Luci also gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on HS2 Phase 2a and asked for assurances on aspects of the project. We submitted a petition – a huge evidence report - to HS2 Ltd in August 2019, but after it was unable to offer assurances on some of our concerns, we were able to present them to the House of Lords Select Committee in September. The Committee published its report, asking HS2 Ltd to look again at sourcing UK and Irish sourced and grown trees. Watch Luci give evidence on Parliamentlive.tv.

April-June 2020

Fighting for ancient woods

More than 3,400 of you joined our Lower Thames Crossing campaign to tell Highways England that damaging irreplaceable habitats for this new road tunnel is unacceptable.

Work began along Phase 1 of HS2. The first ancient woods were chopped down in Warwickshire during breeding season, going against all standard working practices. We continue to work tirelessly behind the scenes to push Government to monitor HS2’s contractors and investigate any breaches and wildlife crimes.

Influencing policy

After many of you encouraged your local councils to talk to us about responding to the climate crisis with woods and trees, we began working with an extra 43 councils to create a plan for each of their areas.

The Time is Now virtual lobby brought over 14,000 people together with 200+ MPs to talk about a healthy, green and fair recovery after coronavirus. What is a green recovery? Read our blog.

The Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc is a plan to build up to a million new homes, a railway and roads. We worked with other leading nature conservation organisations to release our Nature’s Arc principles, calling on government and decision makers to put nature at the heart of development.

Jan-Mar 2020

Quick fact

Smithy Wood, the first wood we saved in 2020, has history dating back at least 850 years.

Celebrations

Service station plans threatening ancient Smithy Wood, by the M1 north of Sheffield, were withdrawn. You made this victory possible after campaigning with us for six long years to pressure the council and developers.

Walsall Volunteer Tree Wardens, councillors and schoolchildren planted 35 young trees in Pelsall, supported by our street trees team.

We took part in The Climate Coalition’s annual Show the Love campaign which aims to spark conversations about climate change among our peers and politicians.

The results of the annual European Tree of the Year competition were revealed on 17 March. The UK entry, Liverpool’s Allerton Oak, placed seventh with an impressive 16,449 votes.

Influencing policy

We launched the Emergency Tree Plan to Government, media and supporters - our vision for how the UK can increase tree cover and help tackle both the nature and climate crises. You joined us in droves to push for Government action on climate change.

After more than 1,800 of you encouraged your representatives to attend our All-Party Parliamentary Group on woods and trees, we met with a record 24 parliamentarians to discuss our Emergency Tree Plan. 

Explore our earlier successes and current campaigns