Over the years we have been made aware of an increasing number of planning applications which threaten woods and trees, or worse cause direct loss to our precious and vulnerable ancient woodland. The Woods under Threat (WuT) team was created in the late 1990’s to respond to this. In recent years we have also started to respond to planning applications where there is an indirect impact on ancient woodland, such as chemicals drifting into the wood from adjacent land use.
Now we even have dedicated volunteers across the UK who help us to monitor planning applications and carry out research for us. We also offer support to local community groups to help them fight threats to their local woods and trees through WoodWatch. This has meant that the team has more capacity to focus on those larger cases such as Oaken Wood and High Speed 2. Cases like these could affect how ancient woodland is perceived in planning or could set a dangerous precedence for the future.
For every application that we responded to that involves ancient woodland we record it onto a Woods under Threat database.
The database used to be an unwieldy Microsoft Access database, however in the last two years we have done a lot of work and now have a shiny new database to use, and we are able to record lots of new information.
In the last ten years the Woods under Threat team has fought 445 cases involving 1043 woods, 972 of which are ancient woodland and 71 are other woodland sites.
A case can involve more than one ancient wood; a perfect example of this is High Speed 2 which is one case, but at least 21 ancient woods are under threat from this route.
In my next post I will talk about what information we have and how you can help us improve on it.
We are the only organisation that on a regular basis records the ancient woodland under threat in the UK as well as how much ancient woodland has been lost so far. However we know that we are not told about all threats to ancient woodland, we are sure that there is far more ancient woodland coming under threat and being lost than we are aware of.