Thank you for contacting me about the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Britain’s ancient woodland.
I agree with you that our woods and forests are an invaluable national asset and I am proud of the action that has been taken in recent years to preserve and extend British woodland.
Ministers have pledged to plant a further 11 million trees during this Parliament. Ambitious plans were announced recently to create a new 'Northern Forest' along the M62 corridor, where the Government will support the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust to plant more than 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull.
In 2015 the Government introduced Countryside Stewardship and part of this was the introduction of the Woodland Creation Grant Scheme. The new scheme provided funding to encourage farmers, land managers and foresters to create new woodland, while protecting existing woodland and restoring tree health. The Countryside Stewardship scheme also supports improvements to woodland as well as a range of capital items, including woodland infrastructure.
The Government is committed to ensuring stronger protection for our ancient woodlands and has taken a positive step in the revised draft NPPF. Subject to consultation, this will deliver on the manifesto commitment to strengthen protections for ancient woodland. Defra is also exploring opportunities from updating the Ancient Woodland Inventory. Officials are also working closely with the Department for Transport and HS2 to address the importance of ancient woodland when determining final routes.
Revisions to the Framework will align it with the Government's 25 Year Environment Plan. The new Framework stipulates that plans should allocate land for development with the least environmental or amenity value and take a strategic approach to maintaining and strengthening networks of habitats.
Additionally, the new Framework sets out that great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty in National Parks, the Broads and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and that the scale and extent of developments in these areas should be severely limited.
The new Framework increases the protection given to ancient woodland, stating that "development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons". This will ensure that these irreplaceable areas are not lost for future generations.
Furthermore, the revised Framework makes clear that where development would "involve the loss of individual aged or veteran trees that lie outside ancient woodland, it should be refused unless the need for, and benefits of, development in that location would clearly outweigh the loss".
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.