Planners failing to safeguard habitats in need of protection

Some councils are still approving planning applications that contravene the new rules laid out in the National Planning Policy Framework for England.

A year ago, changes were made to give ancient woodland and trees the same protection as our finest listed buildings. The changes to the NPPF wording stipulated that any applications for development resulting in loss or damage to ancient woods or ancient and veteran trees should be refused unless they were ‘wholly exceptional’.

However, the Woodland Trust has warned that inappropriate developments, such as caravan parks or chicken and dairy farms, have been approved by a number of local authorities over the last year, resulting in unacceptable loss or damage to ancient woodland. The number of ancient woods in England still under threat from live planning applications currently stands at 441.

The south east region is the most heavily affected by applications to develop on or next to ancient woodland, having suffered a mixture of 18 direct losses and indirect impacts due to housing and highways projects, as well as an extension to a hotel and spa in Ansteadbrook, Surrey.

The Woodland Trust has written to all heads of planning in local authorities across England, sending a copy of its revised Planners’ Manual, which is intended to help local authorities to adopt good practice and sound policy when making key decisions for woods and trees.

Abi Bunker, Woodland Trust director of conservation, said: “It is heart breaking to see that one year on from the ground-breaking changes to the NPPF, there are still too many councils and developers across England that are not implementing the level of protection it affords to ancient woods and trees. We can and must do better than this.

“The Trust and its supporters have worked tirelessly over the last decade to protect these precious woodland habitats, including campaigning for this vital update to national policy. We have also worked with others to develop guidance and support to help local planners to implement it well. Some local authorities are doing this really well and should be applauded, but we need all planning authorities and developers to fully implement the changes and secure our remaining ancient trees and woodlands for future generations.”

Supplier Profiles