Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill: Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich supports amendments protecting ancient woodlands

On 3rd May 2023, the House of Lords debated the Levelling Up & Regeneration Bill in committee. The Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich spoke in support of amendments to the bill tabled by Baroness Young of Old Scone which would require consultations to take place on developments affecting ancient woodlands:

The Lord Bishop of St Edmundsbury & Ipswich: My Lords, I too add my support for the amendment from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and pay tribute to the work she has done in this area. I declare an interest as someone who grows trees and has contributed to the green canopy project in Suffolk. We managed to plant 1.3 million trees under that auspice, which was more than a third of the national total. We were completely committed through various networks of people to this and, indeed, to the preservation of ancient woodlands.

Two things have struck on listening to the discussion of the various amendments on this issue. First, I was struck by the statement from the noble Baroness, Lady Young, about the presumption of retention. That led me to think that there are some underlying principles which might join up our planning, environmental aims and building aims, where clearly things are in conflict. If we could establish some overarching principles, we might be able to work more closely together on achieving what we all desire. A specific example concerning ancient woodlands is Hintlesham Woods in Suffolk. which was under threat from the National Grid, which was going to put pylons across it. Working together, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, the Woodland Trust and the RSPB engaged in a process whereby the National Grid had the consultation it should have had and shifted the route, so that it bypassed the woodland and the woodland was saved. That would have happened as a matter of course if the presumption for consultation had been enshrined.

I fully support this amendment, because we need to ramp up the protection for trees across all these areas for the sake of our environment, and to do so in consultation with our planning aims and environmental aims.


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