Last edited 03 Jul 2020

Ancient woodland

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Contents

[edit] Introduction

Ancient woodlands are areas that have been continuously wooded since at least 1600 AD (1750 in Scotland). They are the primary woodlands with wildlife communities, structure and soils that have been modified the least. Ancient woodland contains a diverse number of species and is considered to be a historic part of our landscape which is irreplaceable.

There are two different types of ancient woodland:

  • Ancient semi-natural woodland. This is woodland that has developed naturally.
  • Plantations on ancient woodland. This is woodland planted on sites that previously contained ancient woodlands.

[edit] Features and processes

Ancient woodland is typically composed of:

Dead and decaying wood is a major part of ancient woodlands supporting a range of specialist invertebrates, fungi, epiphytic lichens, mammals and birds.

Ancient woodland and its associated soil have been shaped over centuries by the interaction of natural disturbance, local climatic conditions and soil conditions, solar radiation, temperature, atmospheric moisture and nutrient cycling.

[edit] Developments

Local planning authorities are advised to conserve and enhance biodiversity. In particular, in relation to ancient woodlands, harm should be avoided wherever possible and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states:

‘...planning permission should be refused for developments resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland...unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss’.

Developments can affect ancient woodland directly through the loss of trees or damage to the root systems and soils, or through pollution incidents or changes to the woodland’s drainage or water table.

[edit] Threats

In January 2019, the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) reported that just 2% of land in the UK is covered by ancient woodland and that they are threatened by the cumulative effects of inappropriate developments on their fringe as much as by permanent loss and damage.

Government guidance recommends that local authorities should refuse permission for developments that result in the loss of ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees except in exceptional cases. However, ancient woodland is not a formal statutory designation, and the evidence used to designate a site as ancient woodland could still be open to challenge by developers and other parties.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.

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