I have been contacted recently about planning protections for Ancient Woodland and aged or veteran trees.
I appreciate that the Woodland Trust is dealing with an unprecedented number of threats to Ancient Woodland and has long called for planning policy to be changed to address this.
In 2005 the Labour Government published a statement of policy for England's Ancient and Native Woodland. This statement set out a vision to maintain and increase the area of ancient woodland, to improve its ecological condition and protect and conserve the cultural heritage associated with Ancient Woodland.
However, Ancient Woodland is currently not a statutory designation in law and this sets it apart from many other precious habitats, and means it is liable to suffer from a lack of protection.
In February the Conservative Government published a Housing White Paper which proposes to clarify which policies provide strong reason to restrict development when preparing plans. The proposed changes would amend the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to further protect Ancient Woodland.
A consultation on the White Paper will run until 2 May 2017 and I know that it is seeking views on the specific proposals to amend the NPPF. This includes protections for Ancient Woodland and aged or veteran trees.
I am pleased that the Government has committed to work to clarify protections in this area as part of the planning framework. A number of organisations, including the Woodland Trust, do important work in restoring, managing and conserving Ancient Woodland to help it survive, but that work will ultimately prove futile while those habitats remain insufficiently protected in the planning system.
I can assure all my constituents that I will follow the outcome of the consultation on the White Paper proposals closely and will continue to bear in mind the points you have raised.