Articles – Save Our Woods (SoW) SoW the seeds of the future Mon, 16 Feb 2015 16:19:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Dr Oliver Rackham Mon, 16 Feb 2015 14:22:34 +0000

Oliver Rackham Chalkney 4

When Karen, Nick and I first began Save Our Woods way back in Jan 2011 I’m not sure we knew who Oliver Rackham was. We soon learned and it was an honour to receive a message from him offering his support for and wisdom to our campaign.

In amongst the scrum and racket of the tree world, Oliver Rackham was the most powerful voice of science and reason. His passing is an incredible loss but the gifts he has given us are immeasurable.

Rod Leslie, SoW contributor and inspiration, wrote a beautiful blog about the day that Oliver Rackham felled the last conifer at Chalkney Wood. I offer it again below as a small token of remembrance of this great man.


Chalkney Restored- a milestone for England’s Ancient Woodlands

Yesterday, 8th December 2011, marks a milestone for England’s Ancient Woodlands…

At 11am Professor Oliver Rackham personally felled the last conifer in Chalkney Wood!

Professor Oliver Rackham fells the last conifer at Chalkney Wood, 8/12/2011!

Chalkney Wood near Earls Colne in north Essex is one of the ‘Lavenham Woods’ managed by the Forestry Commission that played a central role in the research that led to the concept of ‘Ancient Woodland’. Like so many other ancient woods, the Chalkney that Oliver wrote about in his seminal 1980 book ‘Ancient Woodland’ had been heavily planted with conifers by the Forestry Commission. Despite that he said that ‘Chalkney still gives one of the best impressions of medieval wood’.

Oliver Rackham leading a Field Studies Council course in Chalkney Wood in June 1988

I first visited Chalkney, with Oliver, in 1988. 3 years earlier thanks very largely to the work of Oliver Rackham and George Peterken forestry policy had changed dramatically to recognise the unique value of ancient woodland. However, the idea of actually removing conifers was quite revolutionary to the Forestry Commission and in what must be some of the earliest restoration in England local forester Simon Leatherdale had started some tentative felling along streams and ride sides.

Simon Leatherdale of the Forestry Commission who has spent over 20 years restoring the famous ‘Lavenham’ Ancient Woods

Today is the culmination of that early, cautious work. Simon has been working away ever since, gradually removing conifers. All the work has been done at a profit and by local ‘Higglers’, small scale forestry contractors. Support within the Forestry Commission has come and gone over that time: there were still people who saw felling immature trees as sacrilege.

A ‘Higgler’ – a small scale forestry contractor – at work removing conifers in the Lavenham Woods. Here few broadleaves survived but coppice regrowth quickly re-establishes native species.

His work has been even more significant than simply restoring these very special woods: in 1985 both Oliver and George talked about woods ‘destroyed’ by conifer shading.  Of Chalkney Oliver said in 1980 ‘ the native vegetation partly destroyed’.

Coniferised Ancient Woodland – dense Corsican Pine shades out the ground flora in Chalkney wood

Most of us would have agreed at the time: how could ground flora recover when the forest floor was quite bare apart from a carpet of conifer needles ? However, as Simon let the light back in, sometime by thinning, sometimes by felling, it became clear to Oliver that the woodland’s regenerative capacity was far greater than anyone had guessed. In fact today it would take a real expert to identify that many of the earliest restorations had ever had a conifer on them. The discovery gave new impetus to the restoration programme as it became clear that it really was possible to return to something close to the original ancient woodland.

Early restoration: conifers removed from one of the wet flushes in Chalkney wood in 1988

Early restoration: Conifers thinned out from amongst surviving broadleaves along a rideside. As of today not one conifer is left in Chalkney.

200 acre Chalkney is the quintessential Rackham wood: it is a ‘Pry Wood’ – Pry an ancient name for small-leaved lime. Largely ignored because of it’s absence from the pollen record, in recent times lime has been recognised as a key ancient woodland species. Chalkney is complex: as well as lime there is hornbeam, ash/maple/hazel, oak standards and even two wild service stools. The soils are acid sands and loess but calcareous springs feed the valleys.

Chalkney’s cultural history matches its ecological complexity. A Roman-British road dissects the wood which is still surrounded by intact medieval woodbanks. Once used for keeping ‘wild swyne’, probably after the extinction of true wild boar, there are early 17th century records of wood sales showing that lime bast, the bark used for making rope, was as valuable as the timber itself.

Professor Oliver Rackham, having a rest on the last conifer to be felled at Chalkney Wood, 8/12/2011






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SUCCESS! Public Forests to be named as exempt in the Infrastructure Bill! Thu, 06 Nov 2014 13:50:23 +0000


New and beautiful mural by Tom Cousins on a local shop wall in the Forest of Dean.

It’s with great joy that we can tell you that Government will produce an amendment that will exempt our Public Forest Estate from the Infrastructure Bill.  In two weeks time, at the third and final reading of the bill in the House of Lords before it goes to the House of Commons, we will see this amendment and hopefully it will cover what is needed for the full protection of our forests from this heinous bill.  It’s important to remember that even if the Infrastructure Bill leaves the House of Lords with a clause exempting our public forests, this may get over turned when it is debated in the House of Commons. So we must remain vigilant and prepare to fight to keep our forests safe from this bill.  We have won the first of two battles.

“I have listened very carefully to what has been said in the Chamber today and listened attentively to the sentiments expressed by your Lordships’ House. It has become increasingly clear to me during the course of the debate that there is still strong feeling in the House that this is an important issue on which the Government need to reflect further. Therefore, I shall seek to bring an amendment back to the House at Third Reading that will seek to exempt the public forest estate from transfer to the Homes and Communities Agency.” Lord Ahmed (watch Lord Ahmed from 18:50:00 in the video below)

Last night’s debate in the House of Lords was beautiful, that’s the only word for it. Baroness Jan Royall spoke eloquently of the importance of our publicly owned forests and expressed perfectly the roller coaster forest campaigners have been on this past four years trying to secure ongoing protection for our publicly owned forests in a new Forestry Act.

You can hear Baroness Royall’s wonderful speech for yourself from 16:14:00 on the video above. If you continue to watch you will hear other forest heroes support Baroness Royall’s amendment, including Lord Clarke and Lord Greaves who, alongside Baroness Royall, were instrumental in stopping the sell off of our public forests in 2011.  Click here for the full transcript of the debate in the Hansard.

Amazing photograph of the HOOF ring of light to protect our forests by Tina Dorner Photography

Amazing photograph of the HOOF ring of light to protect our forests by Tina Dorner Photography

Last night 400 Hands Off Our Forest campaigners created a striking ring of light with lanterns and fire sculptures around a pond in the publicly owned Forest of Dean. It was Owen Adams, secretary for HOOF, that initially spotted the threat to our forests in the proposed new Infrastructure Bill and with fellow HOOF campaigners raised the alarm and worked tirelessly to get the bill amended. Fantastic interview with HOOF campaigners, including Owen and HOOF chairman Rich Daniels, on ITV yesterday:

jan_royall_38_degrees_petition hand in

24 hours before the debate 38 Degrees started a petition to support us in our campaign to get our forests exempted from the Bill and within hours over a hundred thousand wonderful folk had signed, it was their FASTEST GROWING PETITION EVER! They presented Baroness Royall with the petition outside the Houses of Parliament before the debate.  As it stands at the moment almost 169,000 people have signed the petition to protect our public forests.

Thank you to all Save Our Woods supporters that helped us and spread the word about this campaign!

Passion to protect our forests is not going away.


‘Crystal clear’ commitment from Govt made in new ministerial statement. So lets see it crystal clear in the Infrastructure Bill.. Wed, 05 Nov 2014 12:29:34 +0000

As expected and warned about in my last post Lord Ahmed has published a Ministerial Statement (this is not law, this is just a written statement) that gives Government’s commitments not to transfer any part of our public forests to the Homes and Communities Agency (while the land remains in its ownership – whatever that means?) and they commit to not including the new PFE management body in any regulations that specify which bodies can transfer land to the HCA.

In his statement Lord Ahmed also says that Government would like to make it ‘crystal clear‘ that it is not Government’s intention to ‘sell off socially or environmentally important publicly-owned land such as the nation’s forests. These forests are not surplus, they are in use and the new powers will not be used for this purpose.’

This Government failed to recognise the social and environmental importance of the PFE, then failed to bring in Forestry legislation on the back of the biggest public outcry and consultation on record and is now asking us to rely on their ‘intention’ to protect our forests.  We’d much prefer to see this intent crystal clear in the bill. 

Rich Daniels, Hands Off Our Forest

Rich Daniels, Hands Off Our Forest

Rich Daniels, a Freeminer of the Forest of Dean and Chair of Hands Off Our Forest shares the problems they’ve had over the years with ministerial statements or ‘gentleman’s agreements’ –

“Suffice to say the statement does nothing to reassure anyone here in the Forest of Dean.  It is made by a Government with six months left of its term.  It is simply a statement which is not binding on any future government of whatever persuasion.  It is made in the light of a four year failure to bring forward protective legislation for the PFE.  Despite all of our best efforts to secure it.  

In 1981, when our Forest was under threat of privatisation from Mrs Thatcher’s government, our Conservative MP Paul Marland threw his weight behind concerned Foresters. He told Parliament: “We want more than a gentleman’s agreement that the Forest of Dean will not be sold off. It is a sad fact that Ministers… come and go, Forestry Commission officials come and go, and Members of Parliament… undoubtedly come and go, so more than a gentleman’s agreement is needed to ensure the freedom of the Forest of Dean for future generations.”
This was again reinforced four years ago when the FC decided to dispose of Bircham Wood here in the Forest of Dean.  When we sought to protect it under the 1981 act were told that despite being within the Statutory Forest and recorded in Hansard as such it was “not relevant” as it was not specifically listed in the Act

Only exemption for the Public Forest Estate from the Infrastructure Bill will suffice.

It seems tragic that this Government seems determined to leave as they entered with a complete inability to appreciate the passion we all have for the PFE, hundreds & thousands of us!”

Please CLICK to SIGN!

So we say good luck today in this afternoons debate Baroness Royall and we look forward to hearing you read out your amendment to the Infrastructure Bill to get our forests named exempt in this bill. Thank you! 


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Over 140, 000 people have signed a 38 Degrees petition to exempt our publicly owned forests from being transferred for development – again.  


New mural by Tom Cousins, painted on the side of a house in the Forest of Dean

This should send a message loud and clear to members of the House of Lords who are debating today whether or not to include an exemption for our public forests in the appalling Infrastructure Bill. We want our public forest estate named as exempt in this bill, just as they have already done for Crown Estate Land.

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In the past when Government have resisted writing protections for our forests into law we have been told that a ‘parliamentary statement‘ can be made instead. Which is when a peer or MP, who is part of introducing a bill, gives either a written or spoken statement to the house that says, for example, ‘it is our intention that the public forest estate will not be subject to this bill’, or words to that effect. When a parliamentary statement is used to record the Government’s current intentions, supposedly the statement can be used to hold Government to account. However, just as the word ‘intent’ allows you to do whatever you want despite what you’ve said your original intent was, a parliamentary statement is not law and it is not enough to protect our public forests from this bill into the future. A parliamentary statement has no life after the term of the Government it was given in and so the only way to protect our forests is by writing into the law that the public forest estate is exempt from this bill.

The Infrastructure Bill has the potential to allow our public forests to be transferred for development UNLESS our forests are named as exempt in the bill. Please name our public forests as exempt in this bill.


A message from young Joe of the Forest of Dean.


It’s like a replay of the Save Our Forest campaign.  Back in autumn 2010 when Forest of Dean folk raised the alarm about clauses being sneaked through in the Public Bodies Bill that would enable the flogging off of the entire 260, 000 hectares of English public forests. It wasn’t long before a nationwide campaign rose up, thousands of people in their constituencies fought hard to save their forests, 38 Degrees petition reached over half a million signatures and social media was used to inform and organise campaigners. As a result of this unprecedented campaigning Government was forced to u-turn.  Those of us who have continued to keep an eye on our public forests this past 4 years have been waiting to see how Government was going to slip in through the back door their original intention to flog off large chunks, or up to all of, our public forests. We think this is one way they are doing it and we must not let it happen.

The Infrastructure Bill has the potential to allow our public forests to be transferred for development UNLESS our forests are named as exempt in the billPlease name our public forests as exempt in this bill.


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Parliament’s New Chainsaw – Petition to fight the Infrastructure Bill Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:33:25 +0000 Post image for Parliament’s New Chainsaw – Petition to fight the Infrastructure Bill

Hands Off Our Forest and SoW have been asked by many, many people to create a petition to help fight the worrying Infrastructure bill. So here it is! Please do have a read, sign and share. Thank you! 

Save Our Forests and Public Land, Amend or Scrap the Infrastructure Bill!

‘PARLIAMENT’S NEW CHAINSAW: The Infrastructure Bill poses a huge threat to our publicly owned green spaces and forests from flogging off & development, to our homes & landscape from fracking & radioactive waste, to our wildlife from extermination and to our fundamental democratic right to have a say in how development occurs in our communities.

Only by us all raising our voices in whatever way we can will we curb or stop the Infrastructure Bill from being law!’


Why is the boring Infrastructure Bill such a worry?

Here’s a 9 point list, take your pick…

1. Any public land (apart from that owned by the royal family), including our public forests, can be transferred to the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, to be passed on to private firms to use for any kind of development, with all rights of public access removed.

2. The recovery of gas and oil – including fracking, coal gasification, coalbed methane extraction and geothermal – anywhere in Britain to be a legal objective.

3. The right to dump and abandon any substance whatsoever under any land (including radioactive and gases).

4. The right to drill under any land, public or private.

5. Major projects (such as power stations, new towns, high-speed rail and motorways) to be decided on by Government rather than councils, with communities also unlikely to be consulted.

6. Any species deemed as non-native (including barn owls, red kites, goshawks, boar) can be controlled or exterminated.

7. Already overburdened councils given short time limits to enforce planning restrictions, or they will be discharged by a panel of two government inspectors and a minister, giving developers free rein.

8. The Land Registry to be given major new powers to hold local registers, and be the judge, jury and executioner on land ownership disputes.

9. Anyone building less than 50 houses in a development will no longer need to ensure they are zero carbon or eco-friendly.


Please sign the petition and share with all your might.  Thank you! 

Save Our Forests and Public Land, Amend or Scrap the Infrastructure Bill!


Read more about why we are so concerned about the Infrastructure Bill: 



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Infrastructure Bill debate on Nov 5th – Join activists for day of action! Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:06:09 +0000 Post image for Infrastructure Bill debate on Nov 5th – Join activists for day of action!


Update from HOOF –

We have now heard that Clause 21 of the Infrastructure Bill (re public land transfers) will be debated and voted on in the Lords on NOVEMBER 5. We don’t have long to stop this. We are calling on everyone to lobby Lords to ask them to back the amendment from Baroness Royall and the Bishop of St Albans to exempt forests… apparently the Lib Dem lords should be targeted in particular. See for a sample letter and other advice on how to write.

We would also urge people everywhere between then and now to STAND UP FOR THEIR FORESTS AND PUBLIC LAND (AND AGAINST FRACKING) in whatever way they can.

Short films and photos expressing your dissent/ one-person protests are all valid ways. In the Forest of Dean on November 5 we will be having a day of action.

Why not make November 5th a day of action everywhere?

Parliament’s New Chainsaw – The Infrastructure Bill Sat, 18 Oct 2014 08:27:13 +0000

UPDATE: Due to many requests for a petition we have created one which you can find here:

SAVE OUR FORESTS & PUBLIC LAND! Amend or Scrap the destructive Infrastructure Bill

Please sign and share! Thank you.


Article by Owen Adams of Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF) 

DID you know legislation is currently being pushed through Parliament that will allow any public land to be transferred by a Government agency, all rights of way extinguished, to private developers?

Did you know the same law – the Infrastructure Bill – will allow any substance whatsoever to be dumped under any land, and that it will become a legal objective to frack anywhere where there is the potential of shale gas, or turn any coal seam into gas?

Did you also know that the same law gives the potential go-ahead to exterminate barn owls, red kites, goshawks, wild boar, and a great many other species not deemed as ‘native’?

You’d be forgiven for not knowing because incredibly – despite its massive implications for nature, the environment and also our rural and urban spaces – the Infrastructure Bill has almost entirely not made the news.

Parliaments new chainsaw
A new mural has appeared on the side of a Forest of Dean home in protest at the negative impact the proposed infrastructure bill could have on our public forests. Painted by artist Tom Cousins


There are no celebrities crying ‘foul’ or any politicians who are supposed to be opposed to the Government. It’s almost as if all parties want this law to be passed under the radar, because whoever gets in after May 2015 will have carte blanche to hand over our countryside, urban public spaces, and the ground we walk and live on, to multinational companies.

Thankfully people have started raising the alarm about the TTIP US-EU trade deal and its potential for the privatisation of everything. These discussions are being held behind closed doors, and its only thanks to leaks from German MEPs that we have an inkling of what’s being said.

The Infrastructure Bill, however, has already been debated in the House of Lords for a total period of about 10 days, and yet apparently it’s not worth reporting. The Bill in its totality, and all the proposed amendments, can be read on the Parliament website. It’s there in black and white.

And yet we campaigners in the Forest of Dean only spotted its existence and content when, disappointed after draft legislation we’d been promised aimed at protecting our forests was jettisoned by the Government in June, we decided to look into what else the Government might have up its sleeve.

As soon as we raised the alarm, the Government attempted to put the lid on by confirming forests weren’t included in the land transfer schemes contained in Clause 21 of the Bill. I invite anyone to read this section, as the only land exempt from disposal detailed in the Bill is that owned by the royal family.

We have heard various arguments – forests and national parks can’t be included because they are not surplus, the only land being considered is brownfield, and only land held by arms-length bodies can be included. I’ll let anyone read Clause 21 (and Section 53A of it in particular) themselves and draw their own conclusions. The words surplus, brownfield, arms-length or any equivalent do not appear.

There is no exemption whatsoever for any public land (apart from Crown) contained within the Bill.
An oversight, poorly defined drafting that could easily be rectified, you’d think. If the Government says forests aren’t at risk of land transfer schemes, then why not amend the Bill to state that?

But Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, a member of the Hands Off Our Forest steering group, with the Bishop of St Albans, have been told by the Government’s Baroness Kramer that their amendment to exclude the Public Forest Estate “will be resisted”.

The Bill is due to be debated in the Reports Stage in November. After that there will be a third reading and – if the Government doesn’t back the amendment on forests – there is likely to be a vote. Hence we at HOOF are urging people to lobby lords to support Baroness Royall and the Bishop of St Albans’ amendment. See

The fracking elements also cause us alarm because our Forest of Dean is a coalfield – coal gasification (when seams are set fire to and the gas recovered from a power plant above) is part of the proposed ‘energy mix’; we also have proposed expansion of nuclear power stations just across the river (Severn) from us. Back in the 1980s, the Government tried to persuade the local authority to allow disused mine shafts to dump radioactive waste. The waste produced from fracking is also partly radioactive.

So there we have it, the Infrastructure Bill – opening the door wide for any future government to take any land, override any easements and rights of way, and give to the Government, with a wide remit to destroy a wide range of species, and to frack under any public or private land. Energy minister Baroness Verma noted in the last day of the Committee stage in the Lords (October 14) that regarding the consultation about fracking: “Stakeholder responses from the petroleum and geothermal industry unanimously supported the legislation, as did wider industry, such as manufacturing, the steel industry and engineering associations… Environmental groups and various civil society organisations opposed legislation. Having carefully considered the various issues raised within the consultation responses and whether any compelling new arguments had been presented, we firmly believe that the proposed policy is the right approach.”

Remember February 2011, when the Government’s Caroline Spelman made great virtue of the fact that the Government had listened to the public when she ditched the forests sell-off proposal? Well the public’s views don’t seem to be worth listening to now, not big industry has spoken…

Here in the Forest of Dean, thanks to us extensively leafletting and using social media, there is a growing clamour against the Infrastructure Bill. The media have given us no help – recent correspondence with one editor said unless we “hit them between the eyes” it won’t make the paper. Our remit is protecting the Public Forest Estate, others may want to protect their local beach, mountain, park, recreation ground, allotment or remaining green space…

I would have thought everyone should be up in arms about this. Are you? Will you help us spread the word?

Below are a couple of links which give some background:

We don’t have long to stop this! Affirmative action now, or else…



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“Nice Shelving, Where was it Grown?” – Grown in Britain Sat, 16 Aug 2014 11:38:16 +0000

 by Pip Howard


Whilst proper protection of the English Public Forest Estate still remains in the doldrums, and will do so until the promised legislation is forthcoming, there has been tremendous progress on peripheral issues.

For whatever reason (and most of us have become far too cynical based on experience), the Government simply refused to exempt public forests in the text of the Infrastructure Bill. Promises clearly mean nothing at all in regards public forests. Recent pre-election PR from the LibDems spoke of a need for a trust for our forests, leaving many of us questioning where they were in 2011 when this kind of thinking was actually needed as well as do they know something we don’t? We cannot allow public forests to become a political football and there is still much to keep an eye on and we promise we will be.

Forestry and Trees can no longer be said to lack the presence it deserves on social media anymore, but we can and probably should for our own sanity give up ever hoping to see fair coverage on general media. Since 2011 virtually all UK based forestry and tree organisations and many independent practitioners and professionals have taken to Twitter and other social media sites. The rapid spreading of a host of forestry and tree related material is fantastic to witness and most importantly it clearly illustrates that all of those involved in forestry and arboriculture very much care, as they always have, about the wider issues; biodiversity, public access, sustainability, etc., and most importantly the need to halt deforestation. Do not under estimate the influence this has towards a wider positive perception of forestry, particularly for all those in Europe.

The above may not be a solution, but it helps avoid conflict and halts spurious commentary which back in 2011 and before had infected, from roots to canopy, the whole of the UK forest industry. The words of Prof. Benght-Gunnar Jonsson, writing in September 2011 have now been realised:

I am convinced that without a living discussion, based on facts about our forests, we will be less able to meet all contrasting goals. I am also convinced that we will never come to a final answer. This is not necessarily a problem since it is the discussion itself that is important.”

The other momentous achievement has been ‘Grown in Britain’. This William Wallace of the forest industry continues to gather up the troops, from their isolated farmsteads where they have been fighting a losing battle for so long, and created an army surely and steadily closing in on its objectives.

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All our forests and woodlands need management. Forestry is a cyclical sustainable industry by default – it had lost its way here a bit, due to external pressures and blinkered thinking and this needed redressing. We need to tackle public consciousness in regards where our timber and non timber forest products come from and Grown in Britain is now at the forefront of this, further aiding the efforts of many of the other NGO’s working hard to achieve this, such as the Royal Forestry Society and Sylva.

The excellent decision by Grown in Britain to include small woodlands is a huge step towards better understanding labelling as a whole. This is far from usurping international forest certification such as FSC and PEFC but a way of strengthening all, particularly important as we see no halt, indeed acceleration, of deforestation around the globe.

This decision allows the potential for the UK to have a two tier timber and forest non timber products market, which can only be good. It follows French terroir ideals, which more than anything else, have allowed real sustainable development to continue, adding considerably to rural economies. Indeed the French themselves have turned to terroir principles in regards many of their own forests, with the internationally recognised AOC (appellation origine controlée) label now being awarded to regional forest products.

Consumers will have no choice but to question themselves at the point of every purchase and this can only lead to a stronger forestry industry, so very important as large scale biomass is on the increase. Only time will tell whether this significantly enables us to revalue our massive wastage of timber, that which is going to landfill or burnt on compost heaps in gardens, but it is a very welcome signpost towards the right direction.


Read more articles on SoW from Pip Howard


Stock Wood – An Ancient, Oak Woodland Through the Seasons Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:13:54 +0000

Don’t Frack the Rich – Notes from a Devonian Dumping-Ground Fri, 08 Aug 2014 06:52:49 +0000

by Peter Howard


The concession by the UK government that fracking for shale gas would only take place in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the most exceptional circumstances has been seen by some as a cowardly refusal to implement a complete ban in Protected Areas. However, it is more a cowardly concession to the well-heeled.

It follows a path that is beginning to look very worn. Windfarms are largely to be restricted to undesignated places, and the idea of biodiversity offsets was also targeted to take from the undesignated and give to the Protected Areas, and other planning decisions follow the same trajectory.

Surely, however, the National Parks, and even our AsONB belong to the nation, i.e. to all of us? That may indeed have been the intention, but it became obvious as early as the 1960s that rural gentrification was afoot. Make something desirable and those wealthy enough will buy it. All our estate agents will recognise the premium of a property in a National Park, and the lower premium in an AONB. Over time these become the enclaves of the well-heeled, and their voting intentions will be safe for the current government. Even the visitors to these areas are above average income. Some real attempts to change this have probably reduced the average age of the Park visitor but they still remain comparatively well off, and very white.

This Government has developed a basic policy of dividing the country into Protected Areas (with solid political majorities) and the rest, the dumping grounds, where anything goes. Their own advisors, Natural England, have long ago moved away from such facile zoning, recognising that with our limited land and booming population we have to recognise Natural Areas as all being special but different. However, the conservationists themselves are largely employed within the Protected Areas and show clear signs also of being content with a zoning system that keeps their jobs safe. Indeed they are often the most vociferous in favour of single use land … the nature reserves resist any other land use as fervently as the golf course.

The policy is not clearly articulated. If it were, then its contravention of the European Landscape Convention, to which the UK is signatory, would be evident to all. The Convention is clear that all landscapes, urban and rural, designated and undesignated, are significant to their inhabitants, who have a right to participate in decisions which alter landscapes.

If the maps indicating the new areas for fracking are accurate, then the particular undesignated landscape where I live, the dumping ground between the two wealthy enclaves of Dartmoor to the south and Exmoor to the north, may be safe from this particular development, as not geologically suitable. Meanwhile the wind turbines go up all around as they cannot go along the coast, where the wind is better, but the people richer.

Is it time for residents of the dumping grounds to unite?



Peter Howard


Read more articles by Peter Howard –

Public Forest Estate Categories – a heritage perspective

Suits don’t have ears

Biodiversity Offsetting – The wider landscape and social consequences