Neighbourhood Planning Bill - Report (2nd Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:15 pm on 28th February 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Parminter Baroness Parminter Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 5:15 pm, 28th February 2017

My Lords, from these Benches, I support the intent behind this welcome amendment. I too thank the Minister and the Government for what they have already committed to do. If we could just nudge them a little further, it would give life to the position that this House made clear in Committee—which is that we believe there should be an equivalence of protection for ancient woodlands. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, used the memorable phrase,

“the cathedrals of the natural world”.—[Official Report, 17/1/17; col. 161.]

We need to be clear that the wording has to be watertight. We have seen with the National Planning Policy Framework that every word matters. We have boiled down planning policy guidance and we need planners to be clear about the level of protection that the Government want to offer to ancient woodland. If it is not given an equivalence in the wording, then there will be arguments about the level of protection that the Government wish to see and that this House has so clearly articulated that it would wish them to give.

That equivalence is important but if we do not do it now, at an early stage when we are beginning to understand the natural capital resources in trees—their cultural, social and biodiversity significance—there will be endless arguments among planners as this emerging field develops. The Minister’s clear statement that the Government want to give protection to ancient woodlands is welcome. With a small step in this direction, and tightening the wording of the NPPF, the Government could give us confidence that this intention can actually be delivered on the ground.