There is a hole in the NPPF bigger than in Homer’s do-nut!


Every time the Woodland Trust talks about the threats to ancient woodland – whether through campaigners sending emails, our experts giving evidence at enquiries such as the HS2 Environmental Audit Committee or at meetings with key figures within Defra, Government looks at us with puzzled faces and says ‘but we never said we were going to reduce the protection to ancient woodland that is within our planning system!’

In the words of Homer Simpson – Doh!

How can they keep missing the point? Over the last 12 weeks of our campaign, it has become crystal clear that this Government is labouring under the misapprehension that ancient woodland is protected. So let’s look at how wrong that thought is.

If they are protected, why is the Woodland Trust alone currently working on over 445 cases of threatened ancient woodland? And that is in no way a comprehensive list of all the threats. How do we know? Well, questions in the House of Commons by Caroline Lucas MP showed us that none of the statutory bodies have a remit to monitor and report on the loss of this rare and irreplaceable habitat. This means that decisions, statements and policies have been built upon a total lack of understanding about the true amount of destruction to our ancient woods across England.

So no wonder the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is allowing shocking cases of loss. Oaken Wood in Kent, the first test case for this system failed to secure a future for the ancient woodland we are told it is designed to protect. Has it set a dangerous precedent? Time will tell, but we are not optimistic!

Smithy Wood in Sheffield, a rare and special place already sliced up by infrastructure in the 60s, is now threatened by a landowner who feels it is a worthwhile sacrifice for a service station while not dissuading 4x4ers from trashing it as a weekend hobby.

Add to that the threat from developing right up to the edge of ancient woods – like the paintballing site in Colchester we currently have on our case files. Yep – even paintballing gets a fair crack at trying to prove its ‘economics outweigh environmental loss’ when it comes to irreplacable ancient woodland in the NPPF.

And there lies the problem. I know, we keep repeating it, but the evidence is building – this loophole isn’t even acting as a deterrent. It doesn’t come close to being an effective piece of protection operating within our planning system for the richest habitat outside of the sea that covers just 2% of our UK land mass. The loophole remains in place but without up to date standing advice from Natural England, that could help take a step towards supporting planning officers make informed decisions on the future for ancient woodland within their authorities (we are promised this is imminent). The NPPF was put in place with no clear knowledge of how much real loss had occurred under the previous ‘protection’ of Planning Policy Statement 9 and without a base line to monitor from. And ancient woodland has shockingly low levels of protection with only 15% having made it into SSSI status – so no back up plan from Government in that way either!

That’s why we say back to the drawing board. Remove the presumption for development unless proven otherwise, review the failings of the NPPF and statutory consultees’ impact on planning decisions and base our planning policies on sound, researched evidence when you know how much damage and destruction is happening on the ground.

Our campaign will continue until we protect our ancient woods properly from destruction. It’s never too late to be the voice for woods and trees, so join 45,000 other people who have already written to David Cameron, today!



About Nikki Williams

Head of Campaigning for the Woodland Trust
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Government Affairs, Planning. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to There is a hole in the NPPF bigger than in Homer’s do-nut!

  1. Pingback: NPPF Inquiry: two years on, how is the new planning framework performing? | Woodland Matters

  2. Pingback: Independent committee pushes HS2 to take environmental responsibility | Woodland Matters

  3. June McCarthy says:

    The recent international scientific report on Climate Change and its consequences by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warning of adverse effect on crops, destabilisation of social order within countries where food shortages and droughts occur, mass migrations , possible wars for food and water assets… makes it imperative that we do all we can to mitigate and reduce our CO 2 emissions.

    National and Local Government construe this to be recycling, but we should a priori be safeguarding as many mature trees as we can and planting trees like there is no tomorrow , which there may very well not be if we keep reducing our forests and destroying mature local trees in our towns and countryside.. Besides our oceans and plankton, it is trees which are the most efficient pollution reducers and CO2 absorbers. Not to mention the beauty they bring to life.

    I personally am sick at heart to see that developers often ignore tree protection orders, drive heavy machinery and diggers over protected tree roots, excavate near protected trees, light bonfires near the trees to burn vegetataion as they clear a site, fail to erect protective fencing etc. And so often the planning enforcement officers do not take strong action , so the developers learn that they can get away with ignoring planning conditions.

    We treat the land and the trees so cavalierly and so arrogantly, give little thought to the birds and insects in landscapes we decide to clear of all green and develop, that I wonder if the planet will give us such an almighty kickback as a race one day. The natural land scape is our natural home , not bricks , mortar, concrete… these will not sustain us, can not provide us with food.

    Wake up local and National Government and plant more trees and encourage all garden owners to plant native trees. There are so many bare short grass verges in towns which would benefit from tree planting and the planting of soft fruit bushes..

  4. Rwthless says:

    Fight for our woodland. Fight before it is threatened. While it is threatened and after we’ve won! It’s the only way. They wait until they think we’ve forgotten about it and then sneak up and send the destruction fleet in. I do not trust them further than I can throw them, which is less than a millimetre. So I have to pretend to be a dragon.

    Do not just not vote Tory. Go to their meetings and say loudly “There is no such thing as a safe seat”. “How many here are treehuggers?” and “Proud to be a Nimby. If we don’t care who else will?” Write to the papers, the local ones that actually publish letters. It draws the attention of the locals and they discuss it in shops and pubs.

  5. Derek West says:

    charlesdickens is right,this Goverment knows very well the situation with ancient woodland and hopes enough people dont care,the answer is dont vote for torys(ever).

  6. Peter Kyte says:

    This government, like most powers that be, will do whatever they can get away with and hope the majority of the electorate will not notice.

  7. charlesdickens says:

    Sad to say, this government is under no misapprehensions regarding anything they do or don’t do. They have been sitting in the side-lines waiting to get back into power to unleash their ideology and continue where Thatcher left off – not caring or having compassion for anything that gets in the way – quite simply to make as much short term financial gain for the few in every area of our lives in this country. They have proceeded in every area in a rushed, shambolic and corrupt way, with most of the media on their side. My point is : whilst I and others will continue to fight against this, expose it all for what it is (capitalism, favouring an increase in power & wealth to the already elite layer of society whilst trampling everyone and everything else), why is anyone still surprised or even shocked at all that is happening? There really are no real misapprehensions, it’s all a big pretend game, they know EXACTLY what they are doing and don’t care. It’s unforgivable, absolutely tragic for now and for the future but they JUST DON’T CARE!! I still sign petitions, write letters etc. myself, but knowing full well the government know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and have no intention of u turns. Don’t give up the fight everyone! (But please don’t believe the so-called misapprehensions.)

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