Threat to 1,000 woods

HS2 and road schemes put our an­cient sites in dan­ger

Daily Mail - - News - By Vic­to­ria Allen Sci­ence Cor­re­spon­dent

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

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