Thank you for contacting me about protections for aged and veteran trees.
I understand and share your concerns regarding protection for our ancient woodlands and our aged and veteran trees, which are an irreplaceable aspect of our natural environment. It is encouraging to see that the proposed planning reforms will mean our green spaces and treasured countryside will continue to see strong protections and safeguards against development.
Planning and conservation are two topics that I am currently working hard on, and you can see my two most recent contributions to these debates here: https://www.anthonymangnall.co.uk/news/westminster-hall-debate-national… and https://www.anthonymangnall.co.uk/news/westminster-hall-debate-and-upda….
It is absolutely right that the National Planning Policy Framework, sets out that “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists”. This will ensure that these irreplaceable areas are not lost for future generations.
Local planning authorities determine planning applications that concern ancient woodland and veteran trees. In this process, Natural England are statutory consultees where an application may affect ancient woodland designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which accounts for 23 per cent of ancient woodlands, or where development requires an Environmental Impact Assessment. The reformed planning system will continue to protect the places of environmental value like National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest and locally defined conservation areas and wildlife sites. I have been assured that the presumption for housing development will not be at the expense of these important protected areas.
I know the Government is committed to enhancing protections for our precious environment, as set out in the 25 Year Environment Plan. The framework reinforces environmental protections, including by requiring local authorities to improve biodiversity, and that way improving air quality. I am confident that the framework and reformed planning system will continue to protect our ancient woodland and our aged and veteran trees for decades to come.