Standing up for woods and trees

You joined us for a ‘mapathon’ which mapped urban tree cover and helped identify potential areas for improvement.

The A27 Arundel Bypass route was chosen. It no longer threatens ancient woods, but still affects ancient and veteran trees and wildlife in the wider landscape. We responded to National Highways’ consultation on the proposals.

The Lower Thames Crossing road scheme threatens important ancient woodland, veteran trees and iconic wildlife. When National Highways was due to submit new papers in October, we gathered at affected sites to renew our call for plans to be re-evaluated.

In May, we legally challenged a planning appeal decision on a housing development next to Coldthorn Wood, an ancient woodland in Sussex. Thankfully, Government quashed the decision. Allowed to stand, it could have set a dangerous precedent for ancient woodland, undermining the Ancient Woodland Inventory (AWI) and its vital role in planning decisions in England.

Working with local groups, we signed an open letter to Norfolk County Council objecting to the Norwich Western Link route. The 3.9-mile road would impact undisturbed, highly protected countryside, including an ancient wood and ancient and veteran trees.

Influencing policy

A flurry of Government activity in spring included consultations on its plans to halt nature’s decline in England by 2030 and proposed environmental targets. Together we called for a tree cover target that would lead to high quality woodland creation and decisive, tangible actions that will help nature to thrive again.

In September, we were alarmed by Government announcements on the Retained EU Law Bill and proposed investment zones. Rumours of the Environmental Land Management Scheme also facing the scrap created a triple threat to funding and systems protecting some of our most important wildlife, woods and trees. We called for detailed clarification from Government and thousands of you asked your MP to stand up for nature and hold Government to account. Thank you.

We expressed our deep concern in October over the missed legal deadline to publish the Environment Act targets and called for an urgent end to the #AttackOnNature. The targets were finally announced on 16 December, but they weren’t good enough for nature, people, or climate. We urged Government to reconsider the low tree cover target and aim to improve the ecological condition of woodland.

Ahead of COP15 in December, you joined us in urging the Prime Minister to take urgent action on the nature crisis.

As the new Agriculture (Wales) Bill progressed through the Senedd in October, you added your voices to our joint campaign with other environmental organisations to make sure the bill put nature first.

We took part in September’s Great Big Green Week which focused on positive action for woods and trees and urging Government to deliver its promises to protect nature and cut emissions.

Government’s Keepers of Time policy on ancient and native woodland and trees showed the impact of your voices. Published in May and secured thanks to your support, it commits to restore ancient woods and stop the loss of ancient and veteran trees.

We urged Government to make #NatureForEveryone, calling for equal access to nature in levelling up plans, funding for nature-rich spaces and developers and public bodies providing access to nature-rich green spaces for everyone. Sign our petition.

Following our 2021 campaign on the Plant Biosecurity Strategy consultation, Government published a summary of responses in April. We’re still waiting on the final strategy, but your support makes a positive future for woods and trees more likely. Thank you.

In advance of May’s elections, you urged candidates to improve access to nature, protect irreplaceable habitats, increase tree canopy cover and defend tree health.


In November, Scottish Government published a revised draft of its National Planning Framework (NPF4), proposing even stronger protection for ancient woods and ancient and veteran trees. This is fantastic news and a direct result of your responses to the consultation in early 2022. Thank you.

During Check a Tree Week in October, you visited ancient and veteran trees across the UK to help update the Ancient Tree Inventory, our national map of old trees.

A new soundscape transports listeners to changing woodlands through the centuries, bringing to life the findings of our 2021 State of the UK’s Woods and Trees report. Listen to the soundscape.

Our UK Tree of the Year 2021 winner, the Kippford Leaning Tree, went on to come sixth in the European Tree of the Year 2022 competition.

The latest on HS2

After the Environmental Statement for HS2’s Phase 2b Western Leg from Crewe to Manchester detailed the impact on ancient woods and veteran trees, you joined us to call for route changes. Nearly 6,000 people responded to the consultation, making it clear the proposals were unacceptable. View the full consultation summary in the Independent Assessor’s Report.

Following the consultation, HS2 Ltd published its ancient woodland strategy. The proposed measures failed to align with Natural England’s advice, needlessly endangering more ancient woodland.

In May, the High Speed Rail (Crewe-Manchester) Bill was brought into a new session of Parliament which will grant new powers to construct the Western Leg. Government aims to pass the Bill by the end of 2024, giving us a new deadline to halt the devastation of ancient woodland.

In June, we met Andrew Stephenson MP, the government minister responsible for HS2. He said he wanted HS2 Ltd to do as much as possible to reduce impacts on ancient woodland.

Thank you to everyone who raised concerns about the project’s impact on ancient woodland. Your action helped us keep the issue high on Government’s agenda. With your support, we’ll keep fighting to save ancient woodland for as long as it takes.



Two controversial road schemes in Hereford - the Southern Link Road and a western bypass route – were scrapped, saving several ancient woods and trees. Thanks to local campaigners who stood beside us to save them and to the council for the decision. An eastern bypass could still happen - we'll be keeping a close eye on progress.

Six ancient woods near Cardiff are safe after the M4-A48 link road project lost Welsh government funding.

We welcomed Government’s cancellation of the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, saving 383 ancient woods. But action is needed on other projects in the area - all future plans must have the environment at their heart.

A hawthorn tree in Dumfries & Galloway won the UK 2021 Tree of the Year competition.

We celebrated National Tree Week - 27 November to 5 December - including helping you map canopy cover where you live and marking four years since the launch of the Tree Charter.

Standing up for woods and trees

In June, thousands of you helped us call on Homes England to review its plans for a new housing development in Grantham, Lincolnshire. The proposals threatened nearly 60 hectares of young woodland. Your words had impact and Homes England went back to the negotiating table.

You added your voices to our campaign when Highways England launched another consultation on its Lower Thames Crossing project. The Kent to Essex road tunnel scheme threatens several irreplaceable habitats.

We launched our ground-breaking State of UK Woods and Trees 2021 report in April. It’s the first report of its kind laying out the current state of native woods and trees. The evidence is clear: we need to take action now.

During COP26 in November, you marched with us on the Global Day of Action to call for nature to be at the heart of the action to tackle the climate emergency. Our youth representatives, from Students for Trees, Young People's Forest, Raleigh International, Woodland Trust and Students Organising for Sustainability, also wrote to the Prime Minister urging Government to do everything in its power to protect nature.

Influencing policy

You joined us in supporting Scottish Environment LINK’s campaign to call for legally binding targets for nature recovery in Scotland.

Elections for Welsh and Scottish Parliaments and England’s mayoral city regions took place in May. You joined us in droves to urge candidates to prioritise native woods and trees.

We attended party conferences to talk to politicians about how trees can help tackle the climate and nature crises, and the need to plant, protect and restore more woods.

After thousands of you campaigned with us, the SNP-Green Government committed to important actions, including setting targets for nature’s recovery, establishing a national register for ancient woods, increasing accessible urban woods and boosting funding for Scotland’s rainforests.

During September’s Great Big Green Week (Climate Fringe Week in Scotland) we encouraged community action to show governments the demand for climate ambition and action at COP26.

A consultation on proposed changes to Scotland’s National Planning Framework (NPF4) and Scottish Planning Policy began in December. The changes could help protect ancient woods and veteran trees - thank you to everyone who supported them.

As a lead partner of the Alliance for Scotland's Rainforest, we welcomed Scottish Government's commitment to restore and expand the rainforest following international pledges at COP26.

You joined us in urging MPs to attend the January debate on the Environment Bill and to support the amendment to put nature’s recovery into law. And thousands of you signed the petition calling for the bill to be as strong as possible.

Government published the England Trees Action Plan in May and committed to a legally binding target for nature. We celebrated but highlighted the need for follow-up action.

More than 5,000 of you asked your MPs to support an Environment Bill amendment to legally protect ancient woods and trees. Government rejected it but made valuable commitments including reviewing the National Planning Policy Framework and local planning authorities needing to consult the Secretary of State for any planning permission affecting ancient woodland. Read our response.

In November, the Environment Bill finally became the Environment Act. This followed months of campaigning alongside other charities and over 200,000 of you signing the petition. Your voices helped secure a legally binding target for halting species decline by 2030 and important new commitments from Government on reviewing and improving protection for ancient woods and trees. Thank you.

The latest on HS2

HS2 Ltd was ordered to produce an annual report of its impact on ancient woodland across the whole route after our chair, Baroness Young, tabled an amendment to the HS2 Phase 2a Bill.

Thank you to everyone who urged their MP to attend the HS2 debate in September and called for protection for ancient woodland along the HS2 route. Environmental issues were one of MPs’ top concerns in the lively debate.

In November, Government scaled back plans for the Eastern leg, saving some ancient woods. Government also committed to a new high speed rail project known as Northern Powerhouse Rail. We’ll keep campaigning for the many irreplaceable habitats affected by both schemes. 

Quick fact

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


  • Several ancient woods were saved from Eastleigh Borough Council’s development proposals after residents' campaigning and our own objections.
  • Service station plans threatening Smithy Wood, by the M1 near Sheffield, were withdrawn. You made this possible after campaigning with us for six years.
  • After four years and thousands of your voices, the chosen route for the A27 Arundel bypass won't destroy any ancient woods.
  • Thousands of you took part in our England Tree Strategy campaign calling for strong targets to tackle climate change with trees. Watch Zac Goldsmith’s response to your comments.
  • You joined us in urging UK governments to increase native tree cover to fight climate change as part of the Big Climate Fightback.
  • Through our campaign, over 9,600 of you responded to the public consultation on changes to England’s planning system calling for trees and woods to be valued.
  • 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.
  • We worked with other conservation organisations to release the Nature’s Arc principles, asking government and decision makers to put nature at the heart of the Oxford to Cambridge Growth Arc.
  • Our expert Luci Ryan gave evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee after HS2 Ltd was unable to offer assurances on our concerns. The Committee published its report, asking HS2 Ltd to look again at sourcing UK and Irish sourced and grown trees.
  • You joined us in droves to push for Government action as we launched the Emergency Tree Plan, our vision for how the UK can increase tree cover and tackle the nature and climate crises.


  • More than 3,000 of you joined us to respond to DEFRA’s consultation on protecting and enhancing England’s trees and woods. Your voices were heard and the new Environment Bill, published in autumn 2019, included a legal duty to consult before felling street trees, and stronger powers for the Forestry Commission on illegal felling too. 
  • Over 280 people shared their thoughts on draft proposals for the Scottish Forestry Strategy and the future for Scotland’s woods and trees. The strategy will guide almost all policy and action around woods and trees in Scotland for the next decade.  
  • We joined 12,000 people at the Time is Now mass lobby held by The Climate Coalition and GreenerUK to ask for action on climate change and nature’s decline.
  • We campaigned to save the Nidd Gorge landscape, including ancient woodland and one of our own sites, from being cut in two by a proposed relief road. Your voices were heard and the council scrapped the plans.
  • Thousands of you joined us in pressing Government to include the environmental cost of HS2 in the Oakervee Review, its review of the scheme. We successfully delayed the start of works and removal of precious ancient woodland sites. We’ll continue to fight to stop the devastation caused by the project.
  • Our Big Climate Fightback campaign culminated in tree planting events across the UK on 30 November, with over 265,000 people taking part! The mass planting day also marked Tree Charter Day, the only national day celebrating the UK’s tree heritage.
  • 3,800 people took part in our campaign to put trees on the agenda for the General Election, with every major party competing for bigger tree targets. Now we need to ensure their promises are delivered and the right trees are planted in the right place.


  • We ran a huge campaign on phase 2b of HS2, which threatened at least 30 ancient woods. As a result, over 32,000 people responded to the draft Environmental Statement consultation. The final consultation is expected in 2021 at the earliest. 
  • We successfully lobbied Government to improve English planning policy and better protect our irreplaceable habitats. The National Planning Policy Framework wording now states that any applications for development resulting in loss or damage to ancient woods or ancient and veteran trees should be refused unless ‘wholly exceptional’.


  • We launched the Charter for Trees, Woods and People on 6 November 2017, the 800th anniversary of the influential 1217 Charter of the Forest. The charter sets out the principles by which trees and people in the UK can stand stronger together.