Following the presentation of a petition to the Welsh National Assembly by the Coed Cadw/Woodland Trust in 2012, we have continued to press for changes in legislation, policy and guidance so that the most valuable Welsh trees are less vulnerable to damage and loss. The Assembly provided three opportunities for changing the legislation to allow this to happen: the Heritage Bill, the Environment Bill and the Planning Bill.
The good news is the Welsh Government has prepared a discussion paper summarising the current protection from a Tree Preservation Order and some of the loopholes that allow important ancient and other veteran trees to slip through the net.
The paper is seen as a starting point. The intention is to convene a task and finish group of key people from a variety of stakeholder groups including those with expertise in tree protection and care. Members of the Welsh Government Woodland Strategy Advisory Panel, on which the Woodland Trust is represented, were invited to put forward names. The aim of the group is to explore what is needed and make recommendations to make tree protection fit for purpose. As a priority we wish to see a system that encourages owners to seek advice and funding to help them manage the trees according to best practice. Trees of special interest provide many benefits to society and we should avoid their untimely demise.
If trees have been protected by a Tree Preservation Order or need to be taken properly into consideration in development situations because of their significance we should all work together to make sure that the system is transparent, fair and effective.
We are delighted that this stage has been reached.
Jill Butler, Ancient Tree Adviser