New Standing Advice on Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees

In January 2018, Natural England and the Forestry Commission updated their originally published 2014 Standing Advice on ‘Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees: protecting them from development’. The Standing Advice is important as it represents a ‘material’ consideration in the planning process.

In respect of ancient woodland and veteran trees the National Planning Policy Framework (2012) states in paragraph 118:

“… planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss”.

The overall message is that each development situation affecting ancient woodland or veteran trees will continue to be assessed by the planning authority on its own merits. As before, different planning authorities may set different requirements for buffer zones through policy.

The advice includes the following:

Minimum 15m buffer zone for ancient woodland.

There appears to be a trend towards the provision of large buffer zones, which is something that should be given careful consideration at the early design stage. It remains the case that buffer zones (specifically the 15m zone) should not contain SUDS or services and should be comprised of semi-natural habitat.

Minimum buffer zone of 15 times larger than the stem diameter of a veteran tree or 5m from the edge of its canopy, whichever is larger.

This will mean the provision of much larger buffers than typically provided in the past.

Author: Claudia Dietz

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