Closed petition Outlaw planning applications that include removal of mature trees or hedgerows.

People have been horrified by the outbreak of nets on healthy trees and hedges to stop birds nesting. It's not the nets that are the problem, but the planned removal of the important trees and hedges. Mature trees are vital for air quality and to absorb carbon. They need to stay there.

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The nets on trees are a signal that someone is planning to remove the trees. This should no longer be even an option. Planning should work round our existing stock of mature trees, and hedgerows should be protected without exception. Trees are vital to air quality in cities and to remove CO2. Ancient hedgerows are vital for biodiversity. Nothing replaces a mature tree or hedge. Felling should be restricted immediately to managed woodland only. We have a climate emergency. Felling needs to stop.

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Government responded

This response was given on 3 October 2019

Trees and hedges provide vital beauty, wildlife, health and wellbeing benefits. Acute housing need means we cannot save every tree or hedge, but we will make net gains for biodiversity mandatory.

Our ambitious 25-Year Environment Plan includes our commitment to ensure that we leave the environment in a better state than when we inherited it. We will require developers to deliver biodiversity net gain in the forthcoming Environment Bill. Whenever a local authority decides to grant planning permission, it has power to impose enforceable conditions on the developer; for instance, to prevent disturbance on parts of a site, to require replacement planting, or to ensure that particular trees or hedgerows are safe.

To minimise harm to our countryside from inappropriate development we need to use land within existing settlements as fully as possible, and also to create new garden towns and villages. It is not practicable to try to retain every tree and hedge, but the National Planning Policy Framework makes clear the importance of protecting and enhancing the natural environment. The Framework encourages the creation of green infrastructure, including trees, and provides special protection for ancient woodland and ancient and veteran trees as irreplaceable habitat. The Framework also asks planning authorities to minimise the impacts of development on biodiversity, and sets out strong protections for protected areas such as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Local Wildlife Sites.

Many trees important for local amenity are protected by Tree Preservation Orders. In many situations outside development sites, the Forestry Commission has to grant consent to fell trees. Adoption of the 25-Year Environment Plan, publication of the Urban Tree Manual, and the reappointment of the Trees Champion are all steps taken by the Government to promote a massive increase in tree-planting The Government has made a commitment to plant a million trees in towns and cities, and eleven million trees nationwide. We also made a manifesto commitment to place new duties on local authorities to consult if they wish to cut down street trees, to ensure that communities have the opportunity to influence such decisions.

While the Government does not intend to protect every mature tree and hedge across England, we do intend as soon as possible, using the Environment Bill, to make biodiversity net gain mandatory, so that developers can be made to protect and enhance the natural environment, including trees and hedgerows, ensuring that the local environment is left in a measurably better condition than it was before development.

On 8 April 2019, in response to public concern about anti-bird netting on trees and hedges around permissioned or potential development sites, the then Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government sent a letter to major house-builders to remind them of their legal obligation to consider the impact of any project on local wildlife, and take precautionary action to protect habitat. The former Secretary of State made clear that, if developers did not follow their obligations, he had not ruled out further action to protect our ecology. Following this, major house-builders announced an end to the practice on their sites.

Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government