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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 February, 2005, 04:43 GMT
Better woodland protection urged
Britain's woodlands at risk

Best-selling author Bill Bryson has launched a call to improve protection of Britain's ancient trees and woods.

The appeal came in an address to the all-party Parliamentary Group on Conservation and Wildlife at a meeting hosted by chairman David Kidney MP.

The Woodland Trust and the Ancient Tree Forum say there are more than 475 cases of woods threatened by development.

Mr Bryson said it was "scandalous" that ancient trees were being destroyed and called for better protection measures.

"Ancient trees and woods are vitally important markers of our rich cultural heritage," he said.

"We wouldn't suggest that a new road should be carved through a cathedral, so why do we still allow ancient trees and woods to be destroyed?"

Ancient trees and ancient woods are vitally important to biodiversity and wildlife and should be protected
David Kidney
Labour MP

The Woodland Trust charity has estimated that Britain has more than 80% of northern Europe's ancient trees.

The charity says old trees and woods are the country's most important wildlife habitats and once lost are gone forever.

It claims that few trees are sufficiently valued and only 15% of ancient woods - which cover less than 2% of the UK - have adequate protection.

Mr Kidney, Labour MP for Stafford, said: "Sustainable development demands protection of our irreplaceable natural heritage.

"Ancient trees and ancient woods are vitally important to biodiversity and wildlife and should be protected in national planning policy and saved from development at a local level."

Building site on Woodland
Campaigners want to protect ancient woods from developers

The Woodland Trust calls for better protection of ancient woodland across all government departments, including the Department of Transport and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

It also wants the ancient woodland inventory to be updated in order for it to be more accurate and comprehensive.

The charity says national planning policy on ancient woodland should include absolute protection of old woods, which is free from legal loopholes.

This stance has been echoed by the Ancient Tree Forum (ATF) which points out that Tree Preservation Orders do not apply to trees that are "dead, dying or dangerous", even though ancient trees can be in the process of "dying" for centuries.

The groups also want a living UK map of ancient trees which will enable them to monitor threats and losses.

Woodland park gets special status
17 Sep 04 |  Derbyshire
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15 Sep 04 |  Science/Nature
Ancient forest is auctioned off
20 Aug 04 |  Dorset

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