Here we go again!

The dust hasn’t yet settled on the Oaken Wood Public Inquiry, and already the Trust is having to stand up for ancient woodland in Kent at another public inquiry. This time it’s the proposed widening of the A21, between Tonbridge and Pembury, from single to dual carriageway, entailing the destruction of 9 Ha of ancient woodland adjoining the existing road. The way this Inquiry will run is slightly different from the normal inquiry under the Planning Act, which comes about after an initial refusal by the LPA, or a call in by the Secretary of State (as in the case of Oaken Wood). A Highways Agency Inquiry is the mechanism the Planning Inspectorate uses to make a recommendation, which then informs the Secretary of State’s decision on whether a highways scheme should be approved or rejected.

The proposals suggest planting new woodland as “mitigation”, a particular point we will pick up as you can’t mitigate for destruction, merely “compensate”. This isn’t idle pedantry, as Natural England’s advice states that “measures such as the provision of replacement habitat which seek to address issues of loss or deterioration of ancient woodland are not ‘benefits‘ within the meaning of the NPPF”. If the scheme is approved, we also think much more compensation than proposed is required.

The Trust isn’t against road-building in principle, just when it threatens ancient woodland. This scheme could divide local opinion, as it is a busy stretch of road between two sections of dual carriageway, but it appears that the on-going development of an out-of-town shopping centre has made the situation worse. Talking to a cab driver taking me from the station to the Pre-Inquiry meeting (at an out-of-town hotel…), that new development doesn’t include public transport infrastructure, or a dedicated road network to spare the busy A21. For a commuter going beyond Pembury towards Hastings, the A21 reverts back to single carriageway within a mile.

As if to emphasise the need for the Trust’s involvement, when I walked down the slip-road from the Pre-Inquiry meeting, a young wild boar crossed in front of me, and posed by the sign.

A wild boar drops in early for the inquiry.

A wild boar drops in early for the inquiry.

The inquiry itself is due to begin next week Tuesday 14th May at the Mercure Hotel, Pembury at 10am. Feel free to share your views about the ancient woodland through our website.

Richard Barnes, Senior Conservation Advisor


About Oliver Newham

Senior Campaigner Ancient Woodland
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Planning, Protection, Roads, Woods Under Threat and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Here we go again!

  1. Pingback: A21 Inquiry: “You don’t know what you got till it’s gone” | Woodland Matters

  2. wildelycreative says:

    Destroying ancient woodland for cheap furniture is also insanity, but your partner IKEA is doing just that Seems an odd, if not downright hypocritical, choice of partner. Do 600year old Russian trees mean less than UK ancient trees?

  3. The endless spiral continues – like the song, ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ Too late when we realise that like the flowers: young girls picked them; who went on to young men; who in turn went on to be soldiers; who eventually went to graveyards; that went on to grow more flowers……and still no one is one jot better off. A road widening today will need to be wider still tomorrow, but the woods will be gone forever.

  4. Jack Stevens says:

    The trust should make Enquirys about the wild boar as on the twitter site it’s says a so called charity has been trapping and taking the Boar back to there farm in Ashdown forest (crowborough)
    They have been driven out of Pembury woods by tree cutters !!! Surely this so called charity has a legal obligation to release a wild animal back to its habitat ??????

    • Richard Barnes says:

      Thanks Jack, I think I’ve tracked down the estate in question, and left a voicemail.

  5. davejak says:

    From the song ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ –

    ‘They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them Don’t it always seem to go That you don’t know what you got till it’s gone They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot.’

  6. David Kingdon says:

    As someone who runs/orienteers from time to time in these woodlands (, I think it vital that we retain what little ancient woodland we have left for public access/enjoyment.

  7. robkb says:

    Good luck with defending this woodland. Over the years I’ve spent far too much time sitting in traffic jams on this stretch of the A21, but even so to permit ancient woodland to be destroyed simply to allow cars to go faster seems incredibly short-sighted.

    • Richard Barnes says:

      Thanks for your support Rob, especially as a user of the stretch in question. The Trust is concerned that the widening will be a short-term fix, and then be used to justify widening other sections.

  8. Tony says:

    Is it just me or are these infrastructure improvement/habitat destruction (!) projects, always brought to the table, after some pre-development has already taken place. The same is true of my home town, there has been much development with regard to new utilities and improved street-lighting, near to the site of a yet to be approved plan for 5,000 plus houses. Rather odd, how these things pan out, wouldn’t you say. Yes, the proposed development near me will also damage ancient woodland too, alongside precious heathland and downland habitat which will also be lost forever.

    • richard markjham says:

      has to b e stopped–you cant grow ancient woodland

    • Richard Barnes says:

      Hello Tony, part of the need for this widening seems to have come about by gradual additions of “destinations” at one end of the single carriageway, and now public money will be spent trying to address the increase in traffic. We are also waiting for announcements for widening of other sections of the A21, such as southbound from Kipping’s Corner where the Pembury bypass ends…

  9. Peter Kyte says:

    This governments’ idle boast “the greenest government yet” is pitiful. It has to be pushed and harried at every turn, otherwise the UK will turn into one massive housing and industrial state. We cannot sell our souls for profit.

  10. Destroying ancient woodland to widen a road is insanity! When will people realise that this is our heritage and just as important as any ancient monument or building. It’s as bad as suggesting that we knock down Stonehenge to build a bypass or demolishing Westminster Abbey to accomodate more cars. So what if the traffic travels slower – it gives people a better chance to enjoy the landscape they’re passing through.

    • richard markjham says:

      i quite agree with this–perfect reply

      • Richard Barnes says:

        Thanks Pete, and Richard, I agree ancient woodland and ancient trees should have similar legal protection to that enjoyed by historic monuments.

        • Andy White says:

          The fact that this is not so just goes to prove that technological innovation is not the hallmark of civilized society. Ancient wooland is being sacrificed for the gods of progress Speed and Money. I have been a practising psychotherapist for 25 years and the clinical madness inherant in a decision to destroy irreplaceable nature for the sake of a couple of minutes off the clock for car journey is terrifying in its implications. Its like cooking and eating your own arm to save yourself a trip down to the corner shop. We, the Oaken Wood Mob extend greetings and support to you A21 Mob. Would you like a copy of the grounds for appeal we’ve recently lodged in the high Court to repeal the planning decision on Oaken? I think the grounds (procedure and reasonableness) are the same. If you can demonstrate irrationality thats good. Write to the dept of local government and ask for explanations as to how this intended destruction will help given the bottleneck further on. Continually press them for explanation and justification. Every letter they fail to answer is a point scored should it go to court. Get onto 38*. I did and had 600 signatures in a month. You can then update your signators in one fell swoop with mass e-mails should you need a picket in a hurry. Checkout the 38* petition ‘Stop the Destructin of Oaken Woods’. Care2 might be better. They let you use their own data base if you persuade them that your cause is worthy of their attention. Every threatened woodland is the thin end of the wedge,hey? Don’t lets be pushed around anymore. Push Back!

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