Thunk! on the glass ceiling

Oh dear. Once again, it’s ancient woodland protection that has a twinge of disappointment where other woodland and tree issues have won their part in the government’s response to the Independent Panel for Forests. There are indeed some great things for us to progress for woods in there. Apart from the fact that public woods are no longer seen as a quick buck, tree planting targets have appeared where no target has been before and there is a general sense of acknowledgement that woodland needs to be part of our lives and not just something visited on holidays in ‘the countryside’.

I nearly broke out my celebratory party popper when I read the response, and in black and white it said “Protection of our trees, woods and forests, especially our ancient woodland, is our top priority”.How fantastic I thought, as I eagerly scanned for how they were going to improve protection:

Climate change – Acknowledge and address its impact on our unique, wooded habitats and work to solve problems together. Tick

Tree disease – Healthy levels of investment and the right words we need to hear so we can push to achieve activity. Tick

Policy  – renewing Keepers of Time for ancient woodland, including PAWS.  Tick

and…and…Oh! You feel the planning process is protecting ancient woodland do you? Hmmn. CROSS!

And here’s the rub! This response totally skirts around any discussion on the threats from development, let alone proposing a national agenda to tackle it.  The panel report at least recognised the loss of ancient woodland, but it only went on to recommend that Local Nature Partnerships (LNPs) and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) should review SSSI status locally, and that Local Plans should recognise ancient woodland.  We were hoping the Government would go further in its response, and set a national target to increase the percentage of ancient woodland SSSIs…another ominous ommission!

And above all, there is the need to close the loop hole in planning if we are to truly protect our woods and trees ‘especially our ancient woodland’. Words of protection do not translate across Government (HS2 – a glaring example!) and this has to change as we once again hear the familiar thunk! of ancient woodland’s head bumping on the glass ceiling.glassceiling

Our biggest threat to ancient woodland remains development. NPPF & Localism are not protecting woodland through their policies.

Sorry to be negative, but it’s the reason why the Woodland Trust averages 1,000 phone calls and emails a year from concerned people who seek advice from us for their threatened woods and trees. It’s why we have seen 1,000 hectares of ancient woodland threatened in the last 5 years.

Oh! And a second blow. The areas of investment will be research in mitigation and compensation….CROSS!

Ancient woodland is irreplaceable. So how is investment in this type of research not a clear message that we need to be preparing ancient woodland for accepting that development will cause it to be damaged and lost?

The impact of development is clearly lacking in this response. And yes, we will swing into action calling upon everyone to join together and become a WoodWatcher by taking part in Neighbourhood Planning, scrutinising Local Plans, and getting involved in LNPs. We have no choice, because these are the only opportunities to fight to secure a future for our ancient woods and trees. But it’s a lot harder to be solution-focused (which is what we want to be) for Government when you know the odds are stacked against you! Ultimately, the planning system just doesn’t protect in the way it should and the threats are becoming relentless.

Don’t believe me? Recently an appeal was lost to a telecomms mast and housing that will destroy ancient woodland at Reading University under the current system. Of course you can always keep your fingers crossed that Oaken Wood is saved and I am totally proven wrong later on in the year. (Please, please let me be wrong)

So it looks like ancient woodland has once again hit the glass ceiling of planning. And the resulting loss of this rare habitat will speak for itself. It’s just a pity that it will be too late for the penny to drop and once it’s gone, there is no going back.


*Keep the debate alive and catch up with more posts in our ‘Forests Report’ series:


About Nikki Williams

Head of Campaigning for the Woodland Trust
This entry was posted in Forests Report, Planning, Protection, Woods Under Threat, WoodWatch and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Thunk! on the glass ceiling

  1. Sheila Hardy says:

    You may have noticed that NIMBY, ‘Not in my back yard’ is an anagram of ‘Yon tricky bad man’. Quite so. Surely humans are much, much more important than a few worthless old oak trees, which do not serve human ends at all, but only get in the way of Progress and Economic Growth?

    Progress towards what, though? A planet consisting only of concrete, money and ten billion humans all striving to get there a few minutes faster?

    I have often wondered why NIMBYs are considered so selfish and unpleasant, when by caring for their own small sector of the environment, they help to sustain the whole, i.e. everybody’s back yard, humans, oak trees and all.

    Keep up your interesting debate, and good luck with your campaign.
    Kind regards
    Sheila H.

  2. Agnes Hall says:

    I am glad how popular this is, but where I live, Victoria, Australia, we have a lot of Fires at the moment, as you all may have seen on the news! What angers me mostly is that MOST of these fires are deliberatly started! A few days ago 5 fires were started at the same time in different places.

    There are still fires in the Blue Mountains, an area solid with Woodland! I know that one of those was started by Lightning. Nevertheless 2 Firefighters lost their lives. One was only 19 years old!

    I often think about when we were still in England and used to go for walks in the woods, without having to be afraid of fires being lit by someone! That, and also having lived in The Netherlands for awhile, made me keep up the Waterpainting! The forests in Europe are the most beautiful ones you can see! It’s not only the age old trees, but the animals as well!

    Although it won’t get as dry in England, as it can do here in a matter of days, try to keep an eye open for people, who may just throw a cigarette, which is still lit, down. It doesn’t only look bad, but if England does get weather like we do, it can start a fire as well!

    I love the forests, and it’s age old Trees, and am sad to hear that so many have disappeared, because of the population! Maybe fighting against the people, who try and come into the country illegaly can also help!

    I am trying to think of ideas, to keep our Forests, as I, too, have grandchildren and would hate to hear that one question: “Where was this?” or ” What kind of tree is this?” That’s why I’m fighting so hard to keep, not only our Forests, but ALL our nature, be it Land or Marine!

  3. Agnes Hall says:

    I do landscapes as well, but am only a beginner. I do a lot of English ones, as I used to live there. I joined you because I still care about the British Woodland! I want to say that England isn’t on it’s own though, where the loss of trees is concerned. Even here, in Australia, they are thinking of giving up Woodland for the sake of Coalmines! I’m also campaigning against that! England is very dear to my Heart, as I do Love it a lot, because of the Woodland areas, where I used to take my children. I love the Woodlands for their diversity, but also what they can teach us! Also, where ever we live, what would we do without our Trees? I know one place in Salop, where we lived, we had a Very Old OAK tree. It wasn’t standing upright anymore and the boys, mine included, loved to climb it and play around it, until one day the council decided it was too dangerous and cut it down! This didn’t only upset the local boys, but a lot of us, adults, as we thought it was the most beautiful tree around! Not only that, it was so old and healthy. We have to keep our forests, because without them, where will all the animals go that still live in it? That’s what I love about the forests in England, and why I decided to fight this fight with you! I’m still British by Heart!

    • David Usher says:

      Thanks for the reply Agnes. 3 weeks ago I started making videos on YouTube demonstrating big brush watercolours. Most of them are from photographs taken on bike rides along a Surrey chalk stream and a common near where I live, and express everything I feel about the landscape. I am only too well aware of the tension between protecting our woodlands in all their forms, and the need we have to provide for all our energy needs. Can you imagine daily life without being able to communicate like this because of a power cut? If you are interested in seeing my work, you can find it on YouTube at Watercolour Demonstrations by Dave Usher. They are not all together yet but easy enough to find. If you do, I hope that they might help you on your artistic way.

      • Paul says:

        I wish that Ihad the skill to paint landscaoes, but I too do landscape photography. It really disheartens me to see the vast amount of open space that has been lost to development over the last thirty or so years. Where I live, many of the local towns are now seperated by no more than two fields. All else has been lost, woods, copses, farmland and all. Recently plans have been mooted to join up four of the local towns. The complete loss of any open countryside will be compensated for by creating a small park.

        I hate to think what the future will be like for my grandchildren. As a previous correspondent said many people these days have no experience of the countryside and as a consequence they don’t care about its fate.

        I feel that the underlying problem is a reliance by industry, commerce and government alike on growth. This is stretching the Earths resources to breaking point and stifling debate on the matter of the current population explosion.

        I am trying to write a book about it, but I doubt if I could find a publisher willing to go to print.

        • Agnes Hall says:

          Paul, it’s surprising how many publishers don’t care! You might find one, and I truly hope you do. However don’t be disheartened. A girl I know, wrote a book on the state of the Bays and Oceans. She is now a very renowned Marine Biologist, but before that she decided to Publish her own book, and it was a big success! As she had no head for figures, she asked a friend, who had, to join her.

          Maybe that’s something you could look at as well, if you get the same problems. I would like to encourage you to keep on going with the book. You may have to think of a name, in case you publish it yourself, but that shouldn’t be too hard to do, as anything with our Forests is a start.

          Please let me know how you get on with your book, and as you are a Photographer, you’ll be able to put a lot of photo’s in your book as well! That is also a very good seller!

          I’ll be looking forward to the day your book will get published, and be certain that I’ll be one of your first customers!

  4. David Usher says:

    As a landscape painter I despair at the way our countryside faces an assault from governments wanting to build on greenbelt land, implement HS2, wind turbines et al. Please cheer me up before we lose the lot.

  5. Peter Steward says:

    Woodlands are very important, to calm global warming, provide lungs for the city, leisure activities, and wildlife. put the population in the cities not in the countryside.

  6. Dan says:

    Hi Nikki

    Excellent post. I run Dan the Gardener a childrens gardening & environmental website encouraging children to learn more about their surroundings and also appreciate them
    ” We often don’t seem to understand the value of what we have until its too late…then its gone forever.” how true this is.

    Woods & forests are such interesting places for children and lots of fun too. I found you by accident very good posts here I shall be calling back soon.

  7. I entirely agree, which is also why I launched this petition last month –
    Already working with the South East Essex group, I recently launched the following petition, with advice from CPRE and the Soil Association, and wondered whether you’d be kind enough to sign, support and pass on?

    Why is it possible for developers to build on our ‘Best and Most Versatile agricultural land (BMV)’ – because it’s land that will never feed another mouth again.

    The answer’s in my petition, which I hope you’ll sign — it’s called: Safeguard our Soils, Mr. Pickles!
    Please read more about it, sign here and pass on:

    Carole Shorney
    SE Essex Organic Gardeners

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Thanks for your post Carole – & I hope followers of this blog do get behind your campaign. 🙂

      • Peter David Leech says:

        certainly if you give me the link I hate to spoil your argument but CPRE and HS2 are in it together

        • Nikki Williams says:

          Hi Peter, we are working with communities directly along the line & attend the HS2 Alliance meetings. We are currently investing time and resources into deeper research to ensure we are ready for the Hybrid Bill & for the Environmental Survey responses. As much as we can we will try to influence the outcome with HS2 Ltd direct through official forums. If you are part of a group or would like to meet up with our team, drop a line to and we can meet up when next in your area to discuss thoughts further.

    • David Leech says:

      I am really proud to be a NIMBY because if we all got together we could get rid of everything that way!!! Now to business country file paid scant interest to the devastation to our woodlands both Ancient and ordinary our stand old historic and beautiful single specimen trees that are going to be demolished due to HS2both in Phase1and2 this really does need highlighting in both the national and local press the CPRE nationally has little to say about the protection of the countryside in this issue soot really is up to the Woodland Trust. Please please start to get into gear on this issue

  8. Peter Farrell says:

    One of the main problems we have with regards the Woodlands, is that the younger generation do not spend time in our woodlands. Together with the facts that Local Authorities allow Developers to abuse our Woodlands and Hedgerows when they are developing areas. We had the only Small Leafed Lime Tree this side of Doncaster, we asked for it to be protected but the local Council said it had become diseased and allowed it to be distroyed. They also gave permission for part of a Hedgerow which was protected by the Enclosure Awards of 1774, to be removed for access and egress. The Developer removed some Two Hundred Yards of the Quality Hedgerow. In the same Enclosure Awards a Pond was left to the Village for the people to water their Horses Sheep and Cattle. The Developers destroyed it saying that no one kept the animals now.

    If Children were to use the Woodlands more now then they would continue to use them when they get older and go for walks with their children. We went through Hag Wood the other day and it has deteriated considerably since I was younger. The footpath has received no repairs for some fifty years or so.

    Yes I am a NYMBY but only when it comes to things like dumping Rubbish and destroying Woodlands etc..

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Thanks Peter. Part of our response to the independent panel was to ensure children learn and most importantly experience woodlands and tree planting as part of their education. VisitWoods is another initiative that we run to encourage people out into the woods around them. We often dont seem to understand the value of what we have until its too late…then its gone forever.

  9. Clive Raymond says:

    I don’t think NIMBYs in our woods are essentially different from tribal peoples around the world who care for their woods and forests, and are being dispossessed by governments and commercial interests. I joined a campaign by Survival today against the Indian PM’s proposal to water down protection for forest living tribal peoples.

  10. Pingback: Thank goodness for NIMBYs | Woodland Matters

  11. Peter Kyte says:

    Unfortunately there is a large proportion of our population that do not consider the environment at all, mainly due to not ever going for a walk in woods or anywhere else for that matter.

    • David Leech says:

      Well said but we must keep pushing and pushing the time people will wake up is went they can’t breath and wonder why – too late when all the trees have gone through greed and wilful destruction through an uncaring society

  12. Pingback: Call me an Ent, but I want better protection for trees! | Woodland Matters

  13. Pip Pountney says:

    Excellent news that tree disease and climate are up for discussion and that tree planting schemes are to be encouraged. Perhaps the management of SSSI status areas would actually benefit from being reviewed by local nature/enterprise partnerships – especially if full information is given to membership and local communities are properly consulted.(And listened to!) This would surely lead to greater interest in neighbourhood matters, especially planning, and would encourage people to challenge applications that may threaten our ancient woods and trees.

    Worryingly, the policy ‘Keepers of Time’ advises clearly that in the management of ancient woodland-

    ‘Ancient and native Woodlands have produced renewable products such as fuel for generations and have enormous potential to continue doing so …quality hardwood timber production can be perfectly compatible with wildlife conservation’ — ‘Promoting the production of renewable energy, hardwood timber and other products from existing woodland’.

    Unfortunately, these statements do not just refer to sustainable harvesting of trees such as pines that have been planted for timber production, but also broadleaf varieties such as oaks that have self seeded and grown naturally for centuries.

    As a rep from the Forestry Commission remarked to myself and a group of concerned woodland walkers shortly before Christmas, – ‘People are just going to have to get used to the sound of chainsaws’. Sadly, taking into account the destructive pathway of HS2, the looming loss of perhaps millions of ash trees to Chalara Fraxinea and organisations and local communities encouraged to view their woodlands as a business opportunity with felling licenses supplied by FC – I think he may be absolutely right!!

    Pip Pountney

    • Nikki Williams says:

      Hi Pip, Excellent points made – thank you.
      As many ways people can get involved at the local levels you talk about the more chance we stand – which is why my collegue Mike was moved to write his recent NIMBY blog 🙂 The sound of chainsaws shouldn’t become an acceptable back drop! Which is why we advise so many people, dont wait for them to crack up – you have to act now!

  14. Peter David Leech says:

    Light Bulb Moment ! How about identifying every ancient tree that is not in a wood but along the quarter mile construction zone of HS2 phase 2 with a Luminous Green Marker ” I am going to die for progress!” or similiar just to highligh to the public how many trees out side of woodlands etc. that are going to sacrificed for this scheme? open to suggestions?

    • Nikki Williams says:

      I like your thinking Peter 🙂 As a matter of course, now that we have the HS2 data files!!! we will now automatically over lay the ancient tree data collected from the Ancient Tree Hunt to see what valuable individual trees will be lost too & this will form part of any official responses and/or discussions taking place with HS2 Ltd. But some thing more visual with communities along the route would be interesting – as you say, open to suggestions from folks!

      • david Leech says:

        Thank you for such a prompt response – I really does worry me that the general public really are sleep walking into HS2 – I have been to two public meeting on the subject and believe you me I am worried . Trees seem to be last of peoples worries and I looked at one wonderful Oak Tree near me that is in the quarter mile construction belt that is at least from the Elizabeth I ear without a doubt and will be felled and for what a pure vanity project. And this is one example just one ……think of the millions it is so ,so sad and I am nearly 70 but I am damned If I am giving up on this.

        David Leech

      • sally cakebread says:

        Have tried on many occasions to get the Woodland Trust interested in my old maps showing ancient woodland in Denham Bucks that would be destroyed by HS2. No-one has really seemed interested. The number of ancient woodlands destroyed is far more than you realise. Please can someone take an interest in the trees within the Colne Valley.

        • Nikki Williams says:

          Hi Sally
          More than happy to meet up with you. As I am sure you will appreciate HS2 is a huge project and with a tiny team also battling Oaken Wood & running the Indpendent Panel of forestry responses for the public on top of the other 400 plus other ancient woods currently under threat across the country too we are indeed struggling to keep up with demand. As we say regularly – threats to our ancient woods are relentless! Drop a line to our in box & Matina or Katharine will get back to you. & apologies that you have had to wait

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