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Save our ancients!

Old Moore Wood (Image: WTML)

Ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees could be added to a list of national assets that should be protected from development.

It's great news! Currently, planning permission should be refused if it impacts these precious habitats but a loophole has led to devastating losses.

Now the Government intends to add ancient woodland aged and veteran trees to a list of the nation’s assets that should be explicitly protected from development, through the new Housing White Paper - called 'Fixing our broken housing market'. This would raise their status in planning terms to that of National Parks, SSSIs or Green Belt.

But... it won’t change their fate - or close the loophole - unless the relevant planning guidance is amended accordingly.

Help us to make these plans worthwhile

The Housing White Paper consultation is the best route to influence the Government's plans and to see the relevant planning policy (paragraph 118 of the National Planning Policy Framework) amended. It's open for views until 2 May.

Find out more, and get some tips for your response, in the green box. When you're ready, complete the form to respond to the consultation. You could also send a message asking your parliamentary representative to help.

A General Election is now planned for early June. Together, we can ensure this consultation is still given proper consideration and that this opportunity to change planning policy is not lost, but becomes a priority for ministers. 

I agree - any loss to our ancients should be 'wholly exceptional'

responses sent


Your response 

You can add your views in the box below.




Make your views known

The plans relate to English planning policy, but everyone can take part in this important consultation; your views about ancient woods and trees are very important and should be heard.

Using our form you will respond directly to the relevant section, your own views will also be included. 

What should I say?

The key section of the consultation is Question 4(c). It asks:

Do you agree with the proposals to amend the presumption in favour of sustainable development so that: c) the list of policies which the Government regards as providing reasons to restrict development is limited to those set out currently in footnote 9 of the National Planning Policy Framework (so these are no longer   presented as examples), with the addition of Ancient Woodland and aged or veteran trees?

Your message will explain that this change will have most impact if the problematic wording in paragraph 118 of the NPPF is also changed accordingly. 

Tips for your response: 

  • With more than 400 ancient woods in England currently under threat from development, updating planning policy is crucial
  • Ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees deserve at least the same protection as Green Belt land, National Parks and SSSis. But if protection is to truly improve, the policy which protects ancient woodland and trees, set out in paragraph 118 in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), must also be updated. Since 2012, when the NPPF was published, a loophole in paragraph 118 has allowed development to destroy these irreplaceable habitats if “the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss”. 
  • Whilst overall government policy for England recognises that there should be no further loss of ancient woodland, the current wording in the NPPF leaves the way open to individual decisions that see our precious ancient woods damaged, destroyed and gradually whittled away, bit by bit.
  • The White Paper proposes to add ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees to a list of specific designations that should have restrictions on development. The list is varied, including National Parks, Green Belt and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, but also Local Green Spaces and locations at risk of flooding. Each enjoys a different level of protection and has specific further wording in the NPPF to make the level of restriction clear. Adding ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees to this list is very welcome, but the reader is still referred back to the existing paragraph 118 for further detail – and that is the home of the dreaded loophole.
  • Planning policy for heritage assets currently states that any loss from development should be ‘exceptional’. Ideally, paragraph 118 will be updated along those lines so any loss of ancient woodland or aged and veteran trees should also be viewed in the same way, as 'exceptional' - this is especially relevant as their cultural and historical value means they are increasingly recognised as ‘heritage assets’.  
Read more in our director of conservation's blog.
Find out more about how we have reached this point in our work to see improved in protection our timeline.


Further details

You will find the Government's proposals and public consultation here:

You can also take the full consultation survey, or write to the consultation team. Written responses should be sent to:

Planning Policy Consultation Team 
Department for Communities and Local Government
Third Floor, Fry Building
2 Marsham Street

If you are responding by email or in writing, DCLG ask you to please make it clear that you are responding to Question 4(c).

In response to the 'Fixing our broken housing market' consultation, with regards to question 4 (c). I wish to respond as follows: 
I agree with the intention to strengthen the protection for ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees. However, unless the specific policy for ancient woodland and aged and veteran trees in the NPPF (paragraph 118) is amended to make it clear that their loss or deterioration is wholly exceptional, these proposals cannot be effective.
Yours sincerely, 

Your details






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