Time is running out for ancient woodland

Ancient woods and trees are being lost across the UK at an alarming rate. Infrastructure projects are being proposed right now that will destroy and damage woods and trees that are centuries old. The government can act to stop this.

From the High Speed Two rail project (which will harm 98 ancient woods) to road building schemes such as the A27 around Arundel (threatening 24 hectares), our most precious woods and trees face a fight for their future.

Three government departments now have major policy decisions to make. We need your help to influence the ministers who run these departments to ensure the loss of ancient woods and trees is an absolute last resort, in other words loss would be "wholly exceptional”. We’d rather loss never happens, but the step we suggest will at least bring ancient woodland protection in line with protection for listed buildings, making such loss a rare occurrence.

Why is the Woodland Trust focusing on pushing the Government to protect old woods rather than planting new woodland?

Planting new woodland is very important, but at the same time we must protect the ancient woodland we have here in England.

Ancient woods are our richest land-based habitat for wildlife. They are home to more threatened species than any other habitat, and represent the last fragments of the wildwood that once cloaked England after the last Ice Age.

Today only 10% of the total land area of England is wooded (compared to the European average of 38%), but less than 3% of it is ancient woodland.

Why is the Woodland Trust targeting three government ministers about this?

We are asking you to write to three Secretaries of State - Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), Rt Hon Michael Gove MP (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP (Department for Transport) because they have the power to deliver meaningful and enforceable protection for ancient woods and trees in England.

While ancient woodland protection does exist in English planning policy, we are still witnessing its continual loss in practice. These ministers’ departments are in charge of areas of government that can solve this problem, via careful consideration of new infrastructure projects, delivering stronger planning policy protection and by ensuring the preservation of ancient woodland is at the heart of future policy decisions, such as the forthcoming 25 year plan for the environment.

Why is current protection for ancient woodland not working in England?

The Government already gives some protection to ancient woodland in the National Planning Policy Framework. The valuable ecological contribution which our ancient woods make to the country is also recognised in the formal guidance for planners, Natural England and the Forestry Commission’s “standing advice”.

Sadly these existing policy protections are proving inadequate and insufficient, something acknowledged by the government recently. All too often we see the perceived benefits and gains of an infrastructure project being prioritised over ancient woodland loss.

This situation is sometimes compounded with weak responses from government agencies responsible for ancient woodland protection to infrastructure schemes that involve ancient woodland destruction. Other government agencies are actually proposing ancient woodland loss, such as with HS2 and various road schemes.

What can I do to help this situation in England?

Yes. Unlike our castles and stately homes, ancient and other special trees in England are not properly protected. These trees are our natural heritage, and play an important part in our landscape and our heritage even today.

They should be recognised by the Government as having the same status as built heritage, and acknowledged as such in practice by the relevant agencies. You can support this call here.

What will happen at the end of the campaign? And when can we expect results?

If this is your first campaign action with the Woodland Trust, we hope this will be the first of many. As well as receiving an introductory email to the Trust, you can expect to be asked to support other targeted campaign actions when we need your help most.

What happens next depends upon the government’s response. If it announces positive action to stop ancient woodland loss our response will be different than if we receive a negative reply. Either way we will be sure to keep you updated of all the latest happenings via our monthly campaigns newsletter.

Should I expect a response to my letter from the minister, and what should I do if I receive one?

We would expect you to receive a response from the ministers. How specific the response will be, is likely to depend upon exactly what you say in the letter we have created for you to personalise. In our experience the more personalised the message the more likely you are to receive a personal response.

We would also appreciate if you would share any response you receive by emailing us at: campaigning@woodlandtrust.org.uk

How will the Woodland Trust use my details? Will you send me information about the progress of this campaign or others I can get involved with?

The Woodland Trust will not share your details with third parties or use them for any purpose other than what you have agreed to in taking this action. If you have ticked the box saying we can contact you again, we will let you know about future threats to ancient woodland in your area and other campaigns you can get involved in.

What will my donation be used for?

Any donation you make to the Trust will help us in achieving our organisational objectives of protecting ancient woodland, restoring damaged ancient woodland and planting new woodlands to help create a more resilient landscape for our natural environment. Both people and wildlife will benefit.

Is there anything else I can do? Chain myself to one of the trees, perhaps?

Policy action by these ministers is almost certain to effectively help save many ancient woods across England, making a huge difference for hundreds of ancient woods and trees.

In terms of direct action, we do not advocate anything as radical as chaining yourself to a tree to save ancient woods and trees. We need to improve the system as a whole and this is best achieved through debate and dialogue.

Please help more people get involved by spreading the word - here's the link to use: www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/save or make sure you share using the social buttons on the next page.

I'm standing up for ancient woods and trees


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Below is a suggested letter you can personalise to voice your concerns. Your letter will go to Rt Hon Kit Malthouse MP (MHCLG), Rt Hon Michael Gove MP (Defra) and Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP (DfT). If these ministers act on your concerns they can save hundreds of ancient woods and trees.

Your details

The Rt Hon
Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs
Rt Hon
Department for Transport
Rt Hon
UK Government