The government’s current investment zone proposal could affect more than 125,000 hectares of ancient woodland and 40,000 recorded old and old trees within the council area.
Proposals in the government’s new growth plan would weaken planning policy and threaten existing wildlife laws – the Woodland Trust has warned.
If the rumors are true, a new scheme to pay farmers for public goods like planting trees is at risk. Soon we may see the UK lose more trees and plant less.
Woodland Trust chief executive Dr Darren Moorcroft warned:
“Based on what we’ve heard from government so far from the small budget and retained EU law bill, at a time when we need to step up protection and conservation, the UK will lose more trees and woods, plant less and accelerate woodland expansion to cope with The nature and climate crisis.
“We are particularly concerned with protecting old trees and trees in new investment areas, where planning rules will be weaker, and recent so-called assurances have not allayed our concerns.
“These are unprecedented times for the environment we depend on for prosperity and quality of life.
“The last thing we need to do is weaken protections and create uncertainty for farmers and landowners who are helping prepare our countryside for future climate change.”
Planning laws that weaken these areas could put irreplaceable habitats, such as old-growth forests, at greater risk than protecting these natural world crown jewels.
The current proposal risks violating the government’s pledge last year to strengthen protection of ancient woodland. The current government proposal could see the UK plant fewer trees and lose more.
The government’s net zero plan relies on planting billions of trees in the ground. The success of this strategy will depend on economically rewarding farmers and landowners for doing so, promoting nature and locking in carbon in the process.
If the government is to maintain its net zero target, its newly planned Environmental Land Management (ELM) payments must support a substantial increase in tree planting and woodland expansion.
Delaying the introduction of ELM or focusing grants on area-based payments would completely undermine this, marginalizing England’s trees and woods and making net zero more difficult to achieve.
Dr Moorcroft points out that this is a government that has changed direction quickly, promising to improve the environment within a generation and put it in a better state than they found. He added:
“In May, we warmly welcomed the government’s announcement that much of the ancient woodland will be actively restored by 2030, funded by ELM.
“In August, we again welcomed the news that the government will support woodland creation on a long-term basis through ELM, giving landowners and farmers confidence that they can rely on financial support to increase tree cover.
“The government must urgently show that it remains committed to these plans. If it fails to do so, the danger is that landowners will delay planting and restoration for fear that support may not be available now, seriously hindering forest expansion efforts.
“The future of ELM and the protection of irreplaceable habitats such as old-growth woodlands in investment areas must be quickly identified.”
Building resilience to the impacts of climate change in our landscapes is critical. This year, the Woodland Trust saw some of the most visible impacts of climate change on its old forests and new plantations.
The unseasonal storm hit the north, causing 80 percent of the trees in some Lakeland forests to fall. Extreme heat and prolonged drought have scorched new saplings in southeast England and, most shockingly, killed old trees in debris in the southwest’s temperate rainforest. This is the first time our employees have seen such an impact.
Tree pests and diseases are constantly emerging, thriving in warm environments, and destroying our precious woodlands. Deforestation is now taking place on a larger scale in an attempt to control the spread of disease, or to make trees weakened by disease safe.
Steve Marsh is the Public Relations Manager for the Woodland Trust.