Thank you for contacting me about ancient woodlands and the Environment Act.
I fully understand the importance of this issue and I am glad that our ancient woodlands are already strongly protected under the National Planning Policy Framework. The Government also provides standing advice for local authority planners for when they make planning decision proposals affecting ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees. As the majority of the proposals in the Lord's Amendment you highlighted are already covered under the National Planning Policy Framework and the ancient woodland standing advice, the amendment was not deemed necessary and was not accepted by Parliament.
I am assured, however, that cases will be kept under review where loss or deterioration of ancient woodland has been justified on the basis of “wholly exceptional” circumstances. Ministers will encourage them to be brought to the attention of Defra at an early stage. Further, I welcome that guidance to planners making decisions on what is considered “wholly exceptional” will be revised.
In addition, the England Trees Action Plan commits to building on existing protections. This includes introducing a new category of long-established woodland (woodlands that have been around since 1840) and will consult on the protections they are afforded in the planning system. The new England woodland creation offer will also fund landowners to buffer and expand ancient woodland sites by planting native broad-leaf woodland. Ministers will update the Keepers of Time policy on the management of ancient woodland, veteran trees and other semi-natural woodland.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Jonathan Lord MP
Member of Parliament for Woking