Ancient woodlands saved in East Sussex! 

23 February 2024

Following a long struggle against proposals for a residential development of over 400 dwellings outside Uckfield, East Sussex, we are thrilled that the Planning Inspectorate has dismissed the developer’s appeal. 

The proposed development is in an area of farmland surrounded by swathes of ancient woodland, including our own Lake Wood site. This diverse woodland supports many important plants and animals, including five species of bat and the yellow-necked mouse. This ancient wood and the species within it would have faced serious deterioration from disturbance and pollution if proposals went ahead.

The determined efforts of the local community and other conservation organisations have paid off. The appointed planning inspector concluded that the proposals violate planning policies specifically crafted to safeguard ancient woodland and protected species.  

We deal with hundreds of cases every year where ancient woods are threatened with destruction or deterioration from new development. This appeal decision is welcome confirmation of our concerns for ancient woods where new residential development is proposed nearby. We hope to see more decisions like this in the future, giving ancient woodland the protection it deserves

Extra line of defence for woods thanks to your help

30 January 2024

Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) are now required to consult the Secretary of State where they're considering approving a planning application affecting ancient woodland. 

The change is a result of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities (DLUHC) publishing a Direction on LPAs in England on 26 January. It follows more than 5,000 of you asking your MP to support an Environment Bill amendment to legally protect ancient woods in 2021. While Government rejected the amendment, this Direction is the first of three commitments it made to protect ancient woodland from development threats. Your support was critical to this success – thank you!

We welcome this extra layer of protection and will monitor how LPAs interpret and use it to ensure it really makes a difference for ancient woodland.

Government’s focus should now be on closing loopholes in policy and ensuring no further loss of ancient woodland to development.

Shrewsbury road scheme threatens ancient Darwin Oak

22 January 2024

On 31 October 2023, the Shrewsbury North West Relief Road was approved despite thousands of objections, including our own. The road scheme threatens nine ancient and veteran trees, including the 550-year-old Darwin Oak, and will cause the deterioration of many others.

Ancient and veteran trees are vital for biodiversity, important carbon stores, and a key part of our natural and cultural heritage. The Darwin Oak is no different. Campaigners say that the Shropshire-born Charles Darwin may once have sat under the branches of this mighty ancient tree. But just like the rest of the UK's ancient trees, it has no automatic right to protection, despite its environmental and cultural significance.

The scheme must be reconsidered to save these precious trees and the species they support, and stop the emissions associated with road building before construction begins. Please sign local campaigner Rob McBride's petition to save the Darwin Oak and join our call for legal protection for all significant trees. 

 

Protecting trees and woods

Keep living legends alive

Most of our oldest trees are not legally protected. We're urging governments across the UK to change that. Add your voice to our call for improved protection laws. 

Sign our petition

Scottish Government consults on biodiversity plan

10 November 2023

We support the vision outlined in the Scottish Government's Biodiversity Strategy, but to effectively tackle the biodiversity crisis, its 5-year delivery plan needs stronger actions to support native woodland.

We recommend the delivery plan includes action to:

  • reduce deer densities
  • expand native woodlands
  • improve the condition of existing woodland
  • remove rhododendron from Scotland’s rainforest
  • help timber forests restore nature.

Explore our recommendations and join us in calling for the plan to include stronger action to restore native woods and reverse nature’s decline.

Levelling Up and Regeneration Act now in law

6 November 2023

The Levelling Up and Regeneration Act has become law. It covers a range of topics that will affect the planning system and future development projects.

Thanks to positive amendments by our chair, Baroness Barbara Young, and Baron John Randall, with support from parliamentarians across the parties, the Act now:

  • gives Government a three-month deadline to introduce a requirement for local planning authorities to consult the Secretary of State before approving developments affecting ancient woods.
  • ensures National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can better contribute to the commitment to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030.
  • requires local development decisions to take local nature recovery strategies into account. This is key for nature recovery. Learn more in our report for England.

Your support for improving planning protections for ancient woodland in 2021 helped us reach this moment. Thousands of you asked your MP to support an Environment Bill amendment to legally protect ancient woods and trees. Government rejected this, but did commit to review the National Planning Policy Framework and require local planning authorities to consult the Secretary of State for plans affecting ancient woodland. Thank you!

While this is good news, more is needed. We want to see Government:

  • close the loopholes that allow development to damage ancient woods and veteran trees.
  • introduce planning protections for long established woodland.
  • ensure new developments allow access to nature-rich spaces and increase tree canopy cover to create healthy communities.

We'll be watching to ensure Government delivers its commitments to improve the planning system for trees, climate, and people.

Why we joined the Restore Nature Now rally

5 October 2023

On 28 September, we stood alongside more than 40 other organisations outside the DEFRA offices in London to call for urgent political action to restore nature. 

We met several Trust supporters and heard speeches from nature advocates including broadcaster and campaigner Chris Packham, who organised the event. 

The rally was a response to the latest State of Nature report which showed that UK wildlife continues to decline, despite numerous commitments from governments. It revealed:

  • woodland cover is increasing, but planting of non-native trees and lack of effective management are impacting woodland wildlife and increasing risk to native trees from new pests and pathogens.
  • woodland wildlife is decreasing largely due to habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation and lack of woodland management.
  • in Great Britain, 7% of native woods are in good ecological condition, 92% intermediate and 1% are unfavourable.

We have the solutions to protect and restore our woods and trees but they need political action and support. Join us in calling for politicians to take action now. Tell your MP that Nature Can't Wait.

Giant Caversham oak saved, but the fight continues

22 August 2023

A few months ago, we told you about the King’s Spy Oak, a huge ancient tree in Caversham threatened by development. This living legend is now safe after the application proposing its loss was withdrawn. Thank you to everyone who submitted an objection and helped save this mighty tree! 
 
This is fantastic news, but many other trees need your help. Did you know that right now over 1,200 precious ancient woods are threatened by development? 
 
You have the power to defend your local woods and trees. Check out our useful resources to help you campaign. You can also add your voice to our campaign to introduce legal protection for trees like the King’s Spy Oak. Together we can save our precious woods and trees.  

Over 25,000 oppose quarry extension into ancient wood

2 August 2023

Plans to extend Hermitage Quarry in Kent threaten a staggering 50 hectares of the irreplaceable ancient Oaken Wood. This habitat is vital for plants, wildlife and people. At a time of climate and nature crises, we must protect what little ancient woodland the UK has left.

Over 25,000 of you joined us in responding to the consultation on the shocking proposal. Thank you for speaking out against the destruction of this precious habitat. We expect an update on the consultation in September 2023.

Urge politicians to back the right to a healthy environment in their general election manifestos

28 July 2023

Today marks the first anniversary of the UN Resolution on the right to a healthy environment. But the UK Government claims this right isn’t legally binding.

Each year, 36,000 people suffer from premature death due to air pollution in the UK. Our waterways are in poor condition, and many people have little access to nature where they live. The most disadvantaged communities are disproportionately impacted, and nature continues to decline.

It’s time for the right to a healthy environment to be enshrined in UK law. So, ahead of the next general election, we’re calling for an Environmental Rights Bill.

This is one of five key policies we're calling for as part of the #Nature2030 campaign. Alongside dozens of other members of Wildlife and Countryside Link, we’re asking for nature recovery to be put at the heart of manifestos at the next general election.

We need to see real action now. Join us in urging politicians to include these policies in their manifestos by signing our open letter. 

Protecting trees and woods

Call for action on nature commitments ahead of the next general election  

To stand a chance of restoring nature by 2030, we need action from political leaders. Nature recovery must be at the heart of the next general election campaign.

Take action

Our visit to threatened Oaken Wood

5 July 2023

Last week, members of our campaigning team paid a visit to Oaken Wood, the ancient woodland threatened by the proposed quarry expansion, to take a closer look at what's at risk.

Oaken Wood is a coppiced ancient wood of almost entirely sweet chestnut. Despite this dominance, the extended history of rotational coppice cycles has created remarkable biodiversity. The team saw bluebells in their summer attire, flowering nightshade and important shrubby species like guelder rose. The rich ground flora and flowering shrubs provide for pollinating insects that in turn support the birds and small mammals that call Oaken Wood home. This complex ecosystem sits on ancient woodland soil that is hundreds of years old.

This site is genuinely irreplaceable. It's incredibly valuable for its benefits to the natural environment and people, and for its heritage as a working chestnut coppice. We can’t let these appalling proposals go ahead. Join the call to protect this historic woodland site.

January - June 2023

Standing up for woods and trees

Following the June launch of our report, Trees and woods: at the heart of nature recovery in England, we asked you to urge your local authority to declare a nature emergency and embed a Local Nature Recovery Strategy that helps protect, restore and expand woods and trees.

Armed with 12,444 of your signatures, we submitted a petition to Number 10 Downing Street and to the Department for Transport in May objecting to the environmental harm of the proposed Lower Thames Crossing road scheme. Since 2016, over 23,000 of you have joined our campaigns against this project. Thank you for your uncompromising support.

The Giant Caversham Oak was threatened by a single new dwelling in Caversham, Reading in April. This amazing tree has a girth over 8 metres and links with the 17th-century Civil War. After we and many others objected, the planning application was later withdrawn and the tree saved. One hundred trees in Plymouth were not so lucky, felled by the city council as part of redevelopment plans despite huge local opposition. These precious trees sorely lack the legal protection they deserve. Sign our petition calling for legal protection.

Influencing policy

In spring, we encouraged you to urge local candidates to prioritise woods and trees in advance of May’s elections.

Thousands of you responded to Government’s consultation on its draft transport infrastructure policy in April. The new draft effectively stated that emissions wouldn’t be considered when deciding whether to approve new schemes, and the protection it gave ancient woods and ancient and veteran trees wasn’t strong enough to keep them safe. 

Scottish Government launched a consultation in February on grant support for forestry in Scotland. You joined us to call for a Forestry Grant Scheme that helps native woods play their part in nature recovery and long-term carbon sequestration and storage.

Wales' Government published its Roads Review Panel report in February, a review of current road schemes and future investment. Coew Cadw, the Woodland Trust in Wales, fed into the review, emphasising the need to protect ancient woodland and veteran trees. Read the panel's report in English or read the report in Welsh.

You joined us in responding to the 2022 GB Plant Biosecurity Strategy consultation to help shape the new strategy which was published in January. We welcomed some aspects, but it doesn't put enough emphasis on strengthening commitment to UK grown plants. Read our full response to the biosecurity strategy.

Celebrations

Oldhouse Warren, an ancient woodland in West Sussex, was saved in February after Center Parcs abandoned plans to develop a new village within this irreplaceable habitat. Alongside supporters, local organisations and community groups, we opposed the plans and successfully called on Center Parcs to think again. Read our response to Center Parcs' abandoned plans.

Scotland’s updated policy on planning and development, the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), came into force in February with stronger protection for ancient woods and veteran trees. This is a fantastic stride forward. Thank you to everyone who joined our NPF4 campaign last year and helped make this happen.

We welcomed positive commitments in The Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, published in January, including communities being able to access green or blue space within 15 minutes’ walk. After thousands of you signed the Nature for Everyone petition calling for a 'right to nature', this showed our voices are being heard.

Explore our earlier successes and current campaigns