Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Berkeley of Knighton Lord Berkeley of Knighton Crossbench 5:00 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, I am very attracted to the amendment. I agree with everything that I have heard, and I am encouraged. I know the Minister is himself very keen on trees, green spaces and ancient woodland.

It is terribly important, given what the noble Baroness was saying, not to forget how, especially in underprivileged areas, trees and green spaces have been shown in recent research to have a quite astonishing effect on the well-being, the social cohesion, of a society. We really have to treasure these trees. I am pleased to see that we are talking about not just ancient woodland but the odd oak tree that has been there for 300 years and which can be for a community a kind of fulcrum—a meeting point, something which generates huge affection. The fact that sometimes these trees have been, as the noble Lord has just said, bulldozed out because of a slip or because stringent due attention was not paid to them is often a tragedy for a local community.

I note that in proposed new paragraph (c) in Amendment 38A there is the caveat that the development in that location is “wholly exceptional”. The Government and the Minister therefore have a way out in this clause—it is not absolute. Where woodland communities are concerned in their relationship to them, we have to be as strong as possible in protecting ancient woodland, trees and green-space areas.