Although Ancient woodlands are already strongly protected under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), earlier this week during the debate on the landmark Environment Bill in the House of Commons, MP for Taunton Deane and Environment Minister Rebecca Pow acknowledged the ongoing concerns surrounding their protection. Minister Pow explained that this issue would be more effectively achieved outside the Environment Bill, instead within the National Policy Framework and announced several steps the Government will take.
First, the Government will undertake a review of the national planning policy framework to ensure that it is being correctly implemented in the case of ancient and veteran trees and ancient woodland. Should the review conclude that implementation can be improved, the Government will look to strengthen the guidance to local authorities to ensure their understanding of the protections provided to ancient woodland.
Secondly, the Government will consult on strengthening the wording of the national planning policy framework to better ensure the strongest protection of ancient woodland, while recognising the complex delivery challenges for major infrastructure.
Finally, the Government will amend the Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2021 alongside these reforms to require local planning authorities to consult the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities if they are minded to grant planning permission for developments affecting ancient woodland.
Commenting on the Government’s commitments to enhance the protection for Ancient woodlands, local MP Rebecca Pow said:
“It is music to my ears particularly, because I set up the All-Party Parliamentary Group on ancient woodland and veteran trees with the Woodland Trust when I first came to Parliament as a Back Bencher and worked with the Trust to gain some protection for this precious habitat which is our equivalent of the rainforest. I am particularly pleased to be able to carry this passion into my Ministerial work and taken together, the steps I announced earlier this week will deliver improved and effective action to further protect this remarkable and irreplaceable ancient woodland.”