Select Committee on Transport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by Woodland Trust (MMS 16)

MULTI-MODAL STUDIES

  The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity to respond this inquiry. The Trust is the UK's leading woodland conservation charity. We achieve our purposes through a combination of acquiring woodland and sites for planting and through advocacy of the importance of protecting ancient woodland, enhancing its biodiversity, expanding woodland cover and increasing public enjoyment of woodland. We own over 1,100 sites across the country, covering around 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres) and we have 250,000 members and supporters.

1.  HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE RECOMMENDATIONS THESE STUDIES ARE BRINGING FORWARD COMPARED WITH PREVIOUS TRANSPORT POLICY? HAVE THE STUDIES TAKEN A BALANCED APPROACH TO ALL MODES?

  1.1  The studies do not appear to have taken a balanced approach to all modes, in many ways they often closely resemble the Road Based Studies (RBS) that are being undertaken at the same time as the MMSs with little regard to public transport. We are disappointed at the lack of focus on the urgent need to make better use of public transport and use of existing roads rather than focussing on building new roads.

2.  WHAT ARE THE MAIN POLITICAL, INSTITUTIONAL, FINANCIAL AND PLANNING BARRIERS TO IMPLEMENTING THE STUDIES?

  2.1  Rather than looking at what the barriers are to implementing the strategies, the Woodland Trust is more concerned about the scant regard for the environment that many of the studies show. One of the Trust's main aims is the protection of ancient woodland, to date we have seen almost one hundred potentially ancient woods under threat from MMS proposals and we fear that more will come to light as other studies begin to firm up their proposals.

  2.2  A Better Quality of Life the UK Government's own strategy for sustainable development in the UK notes the particular value for biodiversity of ancient woodlands and the trend towards their decline and fragmentation. The document goes on to state that: "the Government aims to halt these trends". (DETR, 1999, p.85) The Government's indicators for sustainable development include the "Area of ancient woodland in GB" as one of the measures against which sustainable development should be judged (DETR, 1999, Quality of Life Counts, Indicator S11). DEFRA, the Forestry Commission and several other partners including the Trust recently launched the UK Forest Partnership for Action at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg which states that joined-up approaches should be developed "to ensure that all ancient woodland is adequately protected" (UK Forest Partnership for Action, 2002, p.6). Despite this, 85 per cent of ancient woodland lacks national designation and continues to be subject to development pressures and fragmentation.

  2.3  We are extremely concerned that ancient woods and other valuable habitats appear to be rated as far less important than the social and economic needs of the areas covered by MMSs. Sustainable development means the true integration of social, economic and environmental needs and yet most of the focus in the studies that have reported so far seems to be economic requirements.

3.  HOW CAN THE MULTI-MODAL STUDY PROCESS BE IMPROVED?

  3.1  One of the main problems that the Trust is concerned about regarding MMSs is that due to the understandable desire to produce a strategic outcome along a corridor or across a study area, local conservation and environmental issues do not receive enough detailed attention. In theory these concerns should be addressed when the appropriate agency comes to plan the local detail of the scheme. However, by this stage there is a feeling that the MMS is unchangeable, as the regional body responsible has usually approved it. Therefore local concerns such as woodland loss are lost in the headline strategy and as a result come under threat when the detailed plans are drawn up.

  3.2  The strategic approach also often throws up very obvious conflicts with existing structure and local development plan policies. There are already examples of new road proposals that pass across green belt or AONB land which will create the potential for urban spread into the new gaps opened up by the schemes.

  3.3  As a result land use policies arrived at through well established democratic processes do not appear to enter into the equation when the preferred MMS strategy is being developed. In respect of strategic corridors, (such as the M6) it is very easy to conclude in general terms that a road needs widening without taking any regard to the ancient woodland that will be lost or damaged in the process.

  3.4  The Woodland Trust believes that environmental considerations should lie at the very heart of MMSs and that irreplaceable habitats should be protected absolutely from development.

The Woodland Trust

October 2002


 
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