In 2018 the Government strengthened the protection for ancient woodlands and ancient and veteran trees in the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which states that development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland and ancient or veteran trees) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons and a suitable compensation strategy exists (para 175c). This wording was retained in the 2019 NPPF update. For more information please visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-planning-policy-framework/15-conserving-and-enhancing-the-natural-environment
Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) determine planning applications affecting ancient woodland and veteran trees. Natural England (NE) are statutory consultees where an application might affect ancient woodland designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or where development requires an Environmental Impact Assessment. 23% of ancient woodlands are SSSIs. The Forestry Commission (FC) are non-statutory consultees on planning applications affecting ancient woodland, responding if asked to by the LPA.
NE and the FC have prepared joint Standing Advice to assist local planning authorities making decisions on planning applications that may impact on ancient woodland, ancient and veteran trees. This advice is available on GOV.UK. There is no requirement for NE or the FC to be consulted on planning applications involving ancient and veteran trees, unless they are designated as a SSSI.
Ancient woodlands and ancient and veteran trees may also be impacted by Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects, for which NE and FC are statutory consultees. NE and the FC are also providing advice to HS2 Ltd on avoiding, mitigating and partially compensating for the impact of HS2 on ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees.