NPPF – the threat to ancient woodland remains!

Our initial reaction to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The Government have ignored the threat to ancient woodland and retained the loop hole in the NPPF.

The NPPF states:

118. planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss;

After 18 months of campaigning we are very disappointed with this result. Especially as when polled, 81% of MPs supported giving ancient woodland greater protection.

There are however a few glimmers of hope. It appears that the worst excess of the consultation draft are gone. The blunt instrument which was the ‘default yes to development’ has been done away with. The definition of sustainable development has also been strengthened with the welcome inclusion of the five principles set out in the UKs Sustainable Development Strategy Securing the Future.

These however are only small rays of hope in a document that remains intrinsically pro growth, putting the environment second place. It is a sad day for ancient woodland as the planning system continues to fail it.

Watch this space; there will be a more detailed analysis to come as we have time to fully digest the NPPF and its implications for woods and trees.

Victoria Bankes Price, planning adviser


About Alice Farr

Senior Campaigner - ancient woodland
This entry was posted in England, Government Affairs, Planning, Protection, Woods Under Threat, WoodWatch and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to NPPF – the threat to ancient woodland remains!

  1. Pingback: Oaken Wood public inquiry | Woodland Matters

  2. Pingback: Plan et Earth (Part 2) « Richard Wilson Ecology

  3. Lee Pearce says:

    It is absolutely unbelievable, and infuriating, that those people in high places have no power or even, influence, to correct what the rest of us lesser mortal are inflamed about, that being the destruction of all that is of THE MOST value on this planet. It would seem that even the air that we breath is something to be used as a tool to curry favours with the general public for self gain With our views and opinions to be brushed aside when the powers that be, have gained all they need to make there lives ‘false’ utopia. I am very sad for this planet and all the good people on it.

  4. Kaye Brennan says:

    Thanks everyone for such thoughtful and interesting comments – and welcome to the blog! Victoria has asked me to let you know that she’s just posted a ‘7 days later’ blog, with more of a detailed look at the NPPF: Thought you’d be interested – please do share your thoughts on her new post, and pass this one on too!

  5. Pingback: The NPPF – 7 days later | Woodland Matters

  6. Suzie C says:

    I despair of this legislation offering any protection to ancient woodland. It now seems to be down to local council plans and communities which is simply not good enough. Developers have no regard for the natural environment or for any of the myriad creatures that share our planet. Their only interest is in making money, no matter what the cost. They are persistent, and unless there is stringent protection they will eventually get their way. Local councillors need to be lobbied to ensure that they incorporate the protection the government has failed to provide. How about a petition to be delivered to all local councils?
    When I see photographs of bulldozers rooting up ancient trees on a development site I always wonder about the mentality of the driver. How can he, if he has any conscience, proceed with such decimation and destruction? What sort of a person must he be?

    It distresses me to realise that there are people who don’t care about our countryside, scenery, woodland, birdsong, habitats for other creatures, not to mention the benefits for humans, that they wish to destroy for ever. They say that people need homes. Of course they do, and it is depressing to realise that if the population continues to increase as predicted, they will need ever more and more. But you only have to undertake a long train journey to realise just how many acres of brownfield land lies wasted and unused, some of it bordering attractive countryside. It can’t all be contaminated and unfit for building without considerable expense. Furthermore, there are thousands of empty properties throughout the land, a criminal waste.

    Part of my childhood was spent in ‘leafy’ Warwickshire, as it was then known. I know it was before Dutch Elm disease changed the face of the countryside for ever, but the lanes and fields were bordered by hedgerows scented with dog roses and honeysuckle and alive with scurrying creatures, insects, and birds. There were fields of wild flowers, humming with bees. Birds sang from the trees and from the hedges. It’s gradually become more and more sterile as the years have gone by, then the M40 carved through some of the most peaceful parts of the countryside, now HS2 threatens at least two ancient woods in the area. All this is in the name of progress and is, as David McCormick says, what the present generation of children will consider ‘normal’, unless a love of the countryside and respect for other creatures can be instilled into them at an early age.

    Sorry to be so long-winded but it’s an issue close to my heart. I remember hearing David Attenborough once say that we destroy the natural environment around us at our own peril. How right he is, but how depressing that so few people realise or even care.

  7. Melanie Smith says:

    As usual, it seems to me that the Government SAY one thing and DO something completely different. Big mouths, thin words and no respect for anything other than their own Saville Row pockets.

  8. Clive says:

    There are far too many people on this earth and it is set to increase even further at an unprecedented rate. What is the politicians’ answer? To relax planning laws so more homes can be built. The logical outcome of this is that we will eventually reach the point where there will be nowhere left to build, there will not be enough food and water to go around and nowhere to dump the waste. What’s the alternative? Put an end to ALL immigration? Deport all foreign prisoners or unemployed foreign nationals and their families? Restrict child benefit to mothers with only one child? Gasp! Shock, Horror. No elected politician will impose draconian and dictatorial laws to save the natural habitat when he can take seemingly sensible steps to accommodate an increasing population and defer a more drastic solution to a future generation. I fear, like most comments here, that we are sleepwalking with compacency on an inevitable, suicidal path. We are currently in a time of plenty, but a future of overcrowding, water shortages and food rationing awaits the children being born today. I would rather keep strict planning laws and bring forward the point where drastic population restrictions have to be made, before we run out of space altogether. Otherwise, how long will it be before somewhere like Richmond Park becomes a new town between Wandsworth and Richmond, and I can say in my old age, that I remembered it once as a green jewel?

  9. Sustainable should me just that. If you thought logically about it and all parties (conservation groups, local people, government etc…) if the people in power did listen, there would be a compromise that would suit the needs of humans and the protection of the natural environment. David Cameron essentially has lied when he said he wanted this government to be the greenest ever, to help sustain growth, build new homes and also protect the environment. Ruth W is right about tearing down run down or abandoned places or fixing them up and using them for housing as I know many I have talked to agree with this and its far better solution.

    Overall if the people in power just listened to what we want, instead of what they think is best for us, they’d know we want to keep our old environments such as ancient woodlands and old trees, intact and protected forever as such places can’t be restored easily in our lifetime if damaged in any major way. I fear if things keep going how they are, even the new forest, one of the UKs most famous old forested areas, will be under threat one day.

    I have the book “Ireland’s Butterflies a Review” by Trevor Boyd, David Nash and Deirdre Hardiman, which came out a few months ago and it says that we should reward people for taking an active interest in protecting nature instead of either not, or doing the opposite and more should be done to make people aware of what is happening to the environment and what could be done to help reverse what humanity has done. I totally agree with it, so far I see little is being done to want to make people who make money either by construction or farming, take more of an interest in protecting and helping nature.

    I can’t find it right now, but I remember reading a poem (I think) a Scottish man wrote about how there was more nature when he was young and how each generation that grows up, thinks the amount they see is normal, when in fact its not how it used to be, used to be more butterflies, more woodland, more birds etc… but each generation isn’t told or really knows any different so they think its normal as it is now with nature when its really very badly wrong.

  10. Marcus D says:

    The protection of forests should obviously be prioritised but growth of human population and the economy make such conflicts inevitable on a finite planet. A truly sad suicidal path is being pursued and there is no sign of any will to change direction.

  11. Ron Bury says:

    The problem is that we humans are the problem. We are over-populating and squandering the earth’s natural resources in a never ending push for growth to provide profit.

    Our society is unsustainable in its present form and if we don’t change the way we do things, ultimately nature will do it for us, as it does with any animal species which outgrows its environment.

    I fear that the future is starvation, disease, war over resources and the collapse of human civilisation as we know it today. Problem is that all Governments probably see this but can’t see a solution which would get them elected by an electorate who are mostly driven by their hedonistic desires.

    Sorry to be so gloomy!

  12. Ruth W. says:

    How can they class any sort of suburbanisation as “sustainable development”? If they want to build more houses then they should knock down all the run down and empty properties and office blocks that already exist and build there. Leave the woodlands alone we only have ancient woodland because our ancestors left them so. Now it is our duty and responsibility to protect them for our future generations.

  13. Looby says:

    I despair at this Government, their goals are so blinkered, it does not appear to matter to Government what is right or what is wrong for the whole, they should stop playing politics, grow up and into the responsability that they have which is clearly too much for them, As it has been said before, trees are the lungs of our planet which we all need unless the Government think that they know better than our creator of life GOD, Weasle like, all about money and growth etc, there is so much more at stake here, but the Government do not want to know, do not want to care, why oh why oh why are people going without, suffering, and yet we have money to give away? It is all so wrong. Hope someone is listening,
    This note is not as eloqoent as the ones above, but we all do care deeply, we have to pay to protect and fight for trees now!

  14. I’m utterly unsurprised by this. As has been previously stated this whole idea of a development having benefits that outweigh the loss of ancient woodland is a joke. Benefits to who exactly? I can only assume they mean benefits to the construction companies and politicians taking payments to push these developments through.
    I’m still largely confused as to who actually decided that the HS2 was a good thing. As far as I can see we’re carving a huge swathe of concrete across the country so we can get to and from London faster by 40 minutes or so. Disgraceful!

  15. Pete says:

    The thing is though that population growth in the UK (South East especially) is absolutely inexorable (in 20 years the projections are thast Brits will out-number Germans). So unless immigration rules change drastically (it wont happen) yhen many more homes are needed. I agree the statement this needs strengthening – but maybe a quid quo pro could be built in, eg if a veteran tree or area of ancient woodlansd is lost then mitigation must be put into effect, through restoring or creating a new woodand in another location. This may be not what people here want to hear but we need to be pragmatic and negotiate hard.

  16. Peter Foley says:

    The conservation and preservation of ancient woodland and notable veteran trees should be of the utmost importance and be seen as a definite benefit to any proposed development in a location and not considered so flippantly as in the document. No development can ever outweigh the loss of anything so totally irreplaceable and intrinsically part of our heritage and the environment that surrounds us in which we both work and use it for relaxation and enjoyment. In Britain we have a heritage, both in nature and in our buldings, that is envied and admired by many visitors from overseas, so why does the government seem so hell bent on assisting in the possible destruction of everything that is good about Britain. The proposed full rate of VAT on older buildings is another case that will affect our heritage. Forget HS2 and its destruction of habitat and AONB, upgrade exisiting railway lines so that they work efficiently and also ensure that the water that falls on our islands is evenly distributed for the whole nation to benefit.

  17. notonevote says:

    I have been trying to start a campaign that I fear will be fruitless to persuade the English not to vote in any election until we have a democratic electoral system like Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. You can join the campaign by writing “Proportional Representation” on your ballot paper and put a cross next to it at the local elections on May 3rd. Having “spoilt” your ballot paper you could add “Say no to NPPF” for good measure.

    Of course, if you have a reliable residents association or independent candidate that can be counted on to win and fight for local democracy then save your campaign entry for the General Election where even the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish do not have a democratic vote.

  18. Janice Edwards says:

    I fear for the future. I forsee a time when there will be only roads and housing and other manmade structures. i dont suppose it will happen in my life time but whilst the feeling that humans are the only thing that REALLY matters then we will never be able to stop it. When will those that CAN stop this see that the beautiful things in life are as necessary to humankind as money!!

  19. Robert Garlant says:

    I fear that the whole of the government’s new planning strategy is so wide open to interpretation that it is almost meaningless. How is ‘sustainable’ to be defined, for example. It seems to me to be the buzzword of the moment and is routinely trotted out to justify almost anything. Specifically, when it comes to ancient woodland, by what criteria will the ‘need for and benefits of development’ be measured. Once again, subjectivity rules!

  20. J-rumblings says:

    It’s our home, we’re all part of this living organism called Earth, stripping out it’s blood (oil) and blowing holes in it causing huge wounds is repugnant, threatening ancient trees which evolved so that we could breathe is a disgrace. So many creatures enjoy life in the woodlands it is unbearable to imagine what would be lost for the sake of human short term gain due to ignorance, lack of foresight, lack of knwoledge of who they themselves are in reality (not this coarse matter) and what their true purpose is on this Earth, it’s not to cause pain and destruction for wildlife, that’s no-one’s purpose on the Earth, out job is to protect our home planet, if they look inside themselves I can guarentee they would not be destroying such sacred precious, Natural things.

  21. Phil Butler says:

    If the human species is to survive as part of a comfortable and sustainable world governments have to put absolute protection of the natural world beyond all doubt. Finite limits to economic growth and destructive development are inevitable in the longer term. Government ministers need to reflect on the deficit between their fine words and the weak wording in the NPPF. Too much of the natural world has already been lost to irresponsible short-term action facilitated by weaselly-worded legislation. In this scientifically enlightened era there is no excuse for such blatant political gerrymandering.

  22. Martina says:

    I just received this message about a local woodland, and a local campaign to save it from development:
    “The land sale at Pear Wood has collapsed and the developer has pulled out. Harrow Council have issued a statement. The Harrow Times has a quote from the Portfolio Holder for Property that Pear Wood and 10 Acre Field will not form part of a future deal.
    Thank you to all those who have responded. There will still be future problems I am sure. The Harrow Nature Conservation Forum will be as vigilant as we can be, and we will press for maximum protection of these priceless sites.”
    We have the support of local Labour MP, Gareth Thomas who also wrote to Harrow Council’s Director of Legal and Governance Services to raise our concerns.
    All doing our best to make our voice(s) heard, but I see very little ‘sustainable development’ locally.
    Agree, global legislation !

  23. David Evans says:

    I would love to know what this word ‘sustainable’ as applied to development really means. For the life of me, I cannot see how covering land with concrete can be so described. It is not as if the construction of buildings and roads is reversible – houses today, fields and woodlands tomorrow. Once land is developed it cannot be undeveloped, and all other land-use options become unavailable – permanently. And this is open-ended, there seems no reason to think that we will ever reach a time when the government will accept that the loss of green land has gone far enough. With population growth continuing apparently without limit, the need to build over our contryside will also increase without limit. Perhaps even the government will concede that we need some undeveloped land to feed ourselves, but urbanisation will continue to be the driving force. I don’t doubt that the conservation of wildlife and/or beauty will always be a low priority.

    • notonevote says:

      I think that to be sustainable the buildings must be made of sustainably grown timber and insulated with sheep wool and straw. Some might also argue for the use of lime mortar. I am sure the planners will reject anything built of other materials. I look forward seeing the first sustainably built Tesco shop complete with wheelbarrow parking area for customers.

    • David Johnston says:

      Your point about the term ‘sustainable’ is valid. When looking at prior policies that have defined ‘sustainable’, the resulting definitions are very open ended. In my opinion the term ‘sustainable’ is a word that is used by politicians use to show that they ‘care’ but does not hold any substance. The word ‘sustainable’ can be defined to to suit one’s purpose and because of this the meaning becomes vague.

  24. Heather Charnley says:

    Irrespective of whoever is the biggest influences on our planet, I know that when all has been carved up by thoughtless behaviour, the words of Chief Seattle still ring true and is time it was heeded. When it has all gone, then what?
    The planet needs to be preserved, not wasted and exploited, and when will the empowering legislations take place, like they have in Bolivia where they treat nature humanely. This needs to be a global legislation, International Trust!

  25. Thea Hollebone says:

    I believe that what big business or large building firms want will always sway the government (after all don’t they gain financially???) – but we are not powerless in our efforts to protect our fragile environment – however, we need to lose our usual apathetic stance of ‘what can we do’ – and take on a more proactive role like the French – we don’t just have to sit here and accept what the government dish out – after all we didn’t vote for the destruction of our ancient woodlands. We all have a voice – and we all have a vote.

    • notonevote says:

      We all have a vote but not necessarily one that counts. In the 2005 election approximately 70% of the votes cast had no effect on the out come of the election and did not even elect an MP. By a fluke, this is the first democratically elected government since 1931. Although the Conservatives won then, that too was a coalition goverment. Better to rely on action than votes or emigrate to Scotland or Wales.

  26. Tillie Mobbs says:

    I’m up for signing a petition if that helps though generally speaking they seem to be getting us nowhere. This government ‘knows not what it does’ – its policy making is designed to make the rich get richer. What is the definition or criteria behind ‘the development clearly outweighs the loss’. The loss to whom, our natural habitats or the pockets of the developers, and the money that passes hands to support party campaigns from such developers. Please. Do they think we stupid? Our green spaces both ancient and otherwise are precious spaces for our people and our wildlife, flora and fauna. This is a small island and it needs protecting, life is not about money but the quality of our day to day experiences and this is all part of that picture. I dispair.

    • Carole Westbrook says:

      I agree with the above comments. ‘The development clearly outweighs the loss’ gives carte blanche to those who will use their influence with poiliticians to get developments approved and make money, at the cost of destroying irreplaceable woodland and other habitat. It is not just our own quality of life that is threatened, but the future of our descendants. Those who make money at our expense in this way would not care if the future UK was like ‘Blade Runner’ for most people: they won’t be here to suffer it.

      • notonevote says:

        My own MP assured me that the presumption of sustainable development must be in line with local plans. Only if Councils fail to put plans in place that protect woodland will Devlopment be approved. So, he said, it is up to local authorities to protect the local environment. Did he speak truly or is the NPPF a bid for party funds?

  27. Jacquie Cox says:

    I have now read the entire NPPF and I am utterly depressed by it. The overt presumption in favour of ‘sustainable’ development, which is so loosely defined in this document as to be of no use to environmental protection, is worrying. In these austere times the economic argument will always win out over the importance of environmental protection. Especially at community level. When faced with the promise of new jobs, or new housing, even new recreational opportunities, trees and woodland will easily be sacrificed. The Woodland Trust faces a huge job of community engagement, raising awareness of the importance of woodland conservation generally, and on a site-by-site or case-by-case basis. With the presumption in favour of development, local communities need to be made aware of the work done by the Trust in their areas, helping to bolster community participation in a process many may now think is futile.

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