The number of ancient woods under threat in the UK from built development has topped the thousand mark for the first time since records began.
Figures released today by the Woodland Trust show it is aware of 1,064 ancient woodlands at risk of damage or destruction - the highest number since it started compiling the data in 1999. But this may just be the tip of the iceberg as there may well be others it has not been notified of.
Of these cases 801 are live planning applications while the remaining 263 are included in various council site allocation plans – areas outlined for future development such as housing, business use or leisure facilities.
Site allocations are the main nature of threat, followed by housing (175), utilities (148), railways (112), roads (91), agriculture (78) and leisure or sport (49). The biggest single development project threatening ancient woods is HS2. At least 108 ancient woodlands will be lost or damaged by the project in its current form.
As well as development, our ancient woodlands are facing threats like deposition of nitrogen from poultry farms near ancient woods and there’s an alarming growth in threats of tree disease from imported plants and wood.
The charity is calling on the new Government to ensure protection for our irreplaceable ancient woods and trees is a high priority.