To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the need, if any, to improve the protection of ancient and veteran trees in England.
28 June 2021
The irreplaceable nature of ancient and veteran trees and woodland is recognised in our 25 Year Environment Plan. We therefore strengthened the protection of ancient and veteran trees through the National Planning Policy Framework and guidance to planners. These outline that developments should be refused if they would lead to the loss and deterioration of ancient and veteran trees, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and suitable compensation measures.
In 2019, we announced that Government would give the Woodland Trust £210,000 to work with Natural England to update the Ancient Woodland Inventory which identifies over 53,000 ancient woodland sites in England. Having an up-to-date inventory will make it easier for us all to protect this important habitat. Updates to the Ancient Woodland Inventory will also seek to identify further ancient wood pasture sites, which contain a significant number of ancient and veteran trees. By adding these sites to the inventory, we will strengthen the protection of ancient and veteran trees in England.
On 18 May we published the England Trees Action Plan which set out our long-term vision for trees, including for ancient and veteran trees. We announced a number of measures to improve protection of our ancient and veteran trees.
- Introducing a new category of Long-Established Woodland. These are woodlands that have been in situ since 1840. We will consult on the protections these woodlands are afforded in the planning system, recognising their high ecological and societal value.
- We will update the Ancient Woodland Inventory to review the whole of England. This will include mapping smaller ancient woodland sites down to 0.25 hectares in size. The original inventory only mapped sites down to 2 hectares, missing many smaller woods which are important for landscape-scale habitat connectivity.
- We will also update the Keepers of Time policy on management of ancient woodland, veteran trees, and other semi natural woodland.