Threat to 1,000 woods
HS2 and road schemes put our ancient sites in danger
MORE than 1,000 ancient woods are under threat from development, a conservation charity has warned.
Ancient woodland makes up just 2.4 per cent of land in the UK – but is very important as a haven for wildlife.
Now the number of ancient woods at risk of damage or destruction has topped 1,000, says the Woodland Trust.
Of the 1,064 ancient woods at risk, at least 108 areas – from the Home Counties to the North West – are threatened by the controversial high-speed rail link HS2.
Road improvements threaten Nun Bank Wood in West Yorkshire, which legend suggests is the site of outlaw Robin Hood’s grave.
A motorway service station is earmarked for Smithy Wood, on the outskirts of Sheffield, which experts believe is more than 800 years old.
The trust’s warning comes as the Daily Mail’s Be A Tree Angel campaign, run with The Tree Council charity, is set to see thousands of trees planted across Britain. It will involve orchards being planted in 5,500 schools across Britain, with senior business figures donating about £500,000 while readers’ donations will help to plant more than 35,000 trees.
Ancient woodland is defined as that which dates from at least 1600 in England and Wales and 1750 in Scotland. Most are at risk from councils allocating development there in their long-term plans, with housing, utilities and railways the next biggest threats.
Since most ancient woodland is in the South East, this is the area in most danger, particularly sites in Sussex, Surrey and Kent.
Some 306 ancient woods could be destroyed, says the trust, while 424 face damage from sources such as polluting roads or poultry farms, which harm ancient trees with nitrogen fumes.
In 334 cases, the planning applications do not make it clear how the woodland will be harmed.
Abi Bunker, from the Woodland Trust, said: ‘Recently political parties have made bold promises about tree-planting.
‘This is welcome, but the first step in helping trees to combat climate change and helping our threatened nature is to protect the valuable trees and woods we already have.’
The woodland at risk is the highest number since the trust started compiling data in 1999.
Of the cases the trust has identified, 801 are threatened by live planning applications and 263 are included in council plans and strategies to build business and housing developments.
The National Planning Policy Framework for England states that all applications which would result in loss or damage to ancient woodland should be refused unless wholly exceptional.
But the trust relies on volunteers to look out for planning applications and raise the alarm as it has no right to be alerted.
At risk: Robin Hood’s grave in West Yorkshire