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Ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees: advice for making planning decisions


The joint Natural England and Forestry Commission Standing Advice provides guidance on protecting ancient trees and woodlands and ancient and veteran trees from the adverse impacts of new developments (Ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees: advice for making planning decisions). Buffer zones can protect ancient woodland and trees and provide valuable habitat for woodland wildlife, such as bats and birds.

In summary, for ancient woodlands, there should be a buffer zone of at least 15 metres from the boundary of the woodland to avoid root damage (the root protection area), or larger if other impacts (such as air pollution) are likely to extend beyond this distance. For ancient or veteran trees (including those on the woodland boundary), the buffer zone should be at least 15 times larger than the diameter of the tree trunk, or 5 metres from the edge of the tree’s canopy if that area is larger. Where possible, a buffer zone should contribute to wider ecological networks and be part of the green infrastructure of the area. It should consist of semi-natural habitats such as woodland or a mix of scrub, grassland, heathland, and wetland, using local and appropriate native species. Public access can be allowed only if the buffer zone habitat is not harmed by trampling.

See also the separate entry for the Woodland Trust guide to ancient trees and development.


Guidance type/project stage

  • Ecosystem management
  • Principles and standards


  • Urban
  • Woodland

Challenges addressed

  • Climate change adaptation
  • Air quality
  • Biodiversity
  • Health, wellbeing & cultural value
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Natural flood management
  • Water quality

Source | Natural England and Forestry Commission

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