THREAT TO ANCIENT WOODLAND: Greens say 'NO, Minister!'
Ancient woodland in East Anglia could be sacrificed to building under proposals which open a new front in the battle to protect our environment.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has suggested that developers could encroach upon ancient woodland if that was "offset" by the planting of new trees elsewhere.
But this is about more than numbers. Ancient woodland, by definition, has been in existence since at least 1600. New planting could not replicate the rich biodiversity which has grown up over centuries in places such as Epping Forest and Hatfield Forest in Essex, Foxley Wood in Norfolk, Bradfield Woods in Suffolk, King's Wood in Bedfordshire, Brampton Wood in Cambridgeshire and Whippendell Wood in Hertfordshire.
Tony Juniper, a former director of Friends of the Earth and Green Party Parliamentary candidate in Cambridge at the last election, commented, in the Independent newspaper:
"Our Government's obsession with growth at any cost cannot be permitted to destroy nature's final surviving crown jewels. Ministers are working in Brussels to weaken EU conservation laws; at home, they have slashed the budgets of official conservation bodies and are now looking for ways to smooth the path for development, even in special areas."
Rupert Read, lead candidate for the Green Party in the east of England at this year's Euro elections said:
"The Conservatives have lost their one-time calling as conservers of our natural and cultural heritage. If I become a Green MEP I will be doing everything I can to make sure that the powers of the EU are a force for good in nature conservation. That means preserving, not destroying, our remaining ancient woodlands."
The Government sees biodiversity offsetting as a means to make the planning system more efficient. The Greens see ancient woodland as being like a person: it isn't replaceable, it's a unique organism and old ones contain a depth and complexity that only long undisturbed stretches of time can create.