A productive start, and a message to you…
Many people, including leading politicians and journalists, are surprised to discover that much of our precious ancient woodland heritage lacks proper protection from development.
To date, almost 50,000 people have added their names to our call to the Prime Minister to improve protection of our irreplaceable ancient woodland – lending their support to our request for the Government to open a dialogue with us on what we can do right now to improve matters.
Good news! That long awaited dialogue started today, when we met face to face with Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for the Environment.
From the outset, our ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign has highlighted missed opportunities and slow progress towards securing the future of our valuable natural heritage. Our eight key ‘asks’, all of which are proportionate and deliverable, put the Government ‘on the spot’ to live up to their own promises and priorities to protect and value our ancient woods. Ancient woodland has also been raised as an issue in Parliament this year like never before.
In today’s meeting the Secretary of State was left in no doubt that we view this as the start of a process. A process we feel could really deliver for ancient woodland if the level of commitment and engagement shown by the Government to protecting our cherished ancient wooded landscapes from tree diseases could be extended to other key threats such as development and habitat fragmentation.
The meeting proved to be a productive discussion. We gave Mr Paterson a hard copy of all the comments we received when we asked our supporters why they supported our campaign. The Secretary of State recognised the strength of feeling they demonstrated. We were given more time than we anticipated and had ample opportunity to make our points around offsetting and underlying wider concerns around protection. There was recognition of the special nature of ancient woodland and the need to take account of this. We also raised the need for a Forestry Bill and this was duly noted though clearly the final decision will not be made by Defra.
The Secretary of State gave us a message to our supporters: he is grateful for their hard work and support for ancient woodland. And that we can’t deliver for ancient woodland without working together.
We were given a good hearing and the door is very much open for further work. It was recognised that today’s meeting would lead to further dialogue – not least work with Natural England updating the Ancient Woodland Inventory and increasing SSSI designation for ancient woods, two of our eight asks. The Secretary of State was keen to move forward with joint working in this area. This is something we are keen to do, but we are clear that Government needs to provide leadership and fulfil statutory responsibilities.
Help us keep up the pressure
Please send your message to the Prime Minister or share our ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign to encourage more people take part.
You can also tell your MP you support a Forestry Bill for the nation’s forests before 16 May.
Hilary Allison, Policy Director