Woodland Trust highlights inadequate recognition of woodland and biodiversity in Airports Commission documents

The Woodland Trust is urging people who intend to send in responses to the Airports Commission consultation to mention the omission of some vital environmental information. The Trust says trees and woodland habitats have had little mention, and the issue has not been given proper consideration. Either a Gatwick or a Heathrow runway would  have serious consequences for woodland and trees, and other aspects of the natural world.  The Woodland Trust believes woods and trees should not just be considered as amenity. Irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodland are just that – not replaceable. The Commission talks of ancient woodland as having ‘low replacability’ – but ancient woodland cannot be replaced. The Commission also makes little reference to the loss of ecosystem services, or the impacts of land take on biodiversity at a local or landscape scale. The need that everyone has for good quality, accessible green spaces is barely recognised. With threatened loss of 14 hectares of ancient woodland at Gatwick, with over 70 hectares woodland loss overall – and valuable ancient trees at risk around Heathrow, loss and permanent fragmentation of these precious habitats like these could have far wider implications.

The Airports Commission paper on “Biodiversity: Assessment” by Jacobs is at  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/372447/7-biodiversity–assessment.pdf

and contains its assessment of woodland and ancient woodland, and the need to replace the areas lost, at a multiple of 3:1 (Gatwick airport) or up to 10:1 in Defra’s Biodiversity offsetting guidance.


The Airports Commission paper on “Biodiversity: Ecosystem Services” by Jacobs is at  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/372448/7-biodiversity–ecosystem-services.pdf

which says for Gatwick “The total net present value of lost ecosystem services is estimated to be between £6.0 million and £9.2 million over the course of the 60 year assessment period.  Aside from ecosystem services supporting agriculture, the highest valued loss of an
ecosystem service is that of opportunities for recreation. ”  and there are similar statements for the two Heathrow runway options.


Give woodland a voice in new aviation plans

The Woodland Trust says:

A big decision will be made later this year about aviation in the UK. It will be based on the recommendations made by the Airports Commission; a body set up by the Government to advise on airport capacity.

A public consultation on the commission’s assessment of the options – a second runway at Gatwick or a third runway at Heathrow – is now live.

Unfortunately, trees and woodland habitats are off the radar!

In the consultation “the environment” seems to be limited to buildings and issues of noise and air pollution. But expansion at any major airport will have serious consequences for woodland and trees in the south east.

We need your help.

There’s still time to put woods and trees and ancient woodland at the centre of the debate, which is where they should be. The commission’s final report is due to be delivered to government this summer.

The Commission’s consultation closes on Tuesday 3 February.

Whoever leads the next government will use its recommendations to decide on the next steps for airport expansion. Please use our simple form to be the voice they need.

Ready for take-off?

The commission asks 8 specific questions. These questions appear most relevant to our concerns:

  • Q1: What conclusions, if any, do you draw in respect of the three short-listed options?
  • Q2: Do you have any suggestions for how the short-listed options could be improved, i.e. their benefits enhanced or negative impacts mitigated?
  • Q4: In your view, are there any relevant factors that have not been fully addressed by the Commission to date?
  • Q8: Do you have any other comments?

To help you, our analysis of the consultation reveals:

  • When referring to ‘the environment’ the focus is on air quality and noise, with woods and trees considered mainly as amenity.
  • There is scant regard for irreplaceable habitats like ancient woodland.
  • Ancient woodland is described as having ‘low replacability’ – but ancient woodland can never be replaced!
  • There’s also little reference to the loss of ecosystem services, or the impacts of land take on biodiversity at a local or landscape scale.
  • The need we all have for quality, accessible green spaces is barely recognised.

The consultation states that the loss of woodland is the ‘main biodiversity impact’ of proposals at Gatwick. Here, fourteen hectares of irreplaceable ancient woodland could be lost forever, with over 70 hectares of woodland loss overall. Valuable ancient trees are also at risk around Heathrow. Further loss and permanent fragmentation of precious habitats like these could have far wider implications on the natural world.

The commission must take this seriously in its recommendations.

When you are ready, send your email straight to the commission’s chair, Sir Howard Davies. Feel free to include your own views about woods and trees, and ancient woodland and ancient trees, to add to your response.


You can send a reply to the Commission via the Woodland Trust website at  http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/campaigning/campaigns/airports-commission/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=6439_aviation



See also

Woodland Trust highlights loss of 3 areas of ancient woodland for Gatwick runway

Though much of the area that would be flattened and covered in concrete and tarmac for a 2nd Gatwick runway – and associated building – would be fields and grassland, there are also three areas of ancient woodland.  The Woodland Trust has assessed the woods that are threatened and found that they  are significant and have important local biodiversity value. The current Gatwick consultation on its runway options (there is only one of the options that the airport wants, and the consultation has no proper way for respondents to say they oppose any new runway) barely recognises the impact a new runway will have on this irreplaceable habitat. The fact it will also wipe out the last remaining ecological network for wildlife around the whole of the south side of the airport is ignored.  The Woodland Trust is urging people to respond to the consultation, either by just saying NO to any of the options, or giving more detail in the response boxes to reflect the proposed destruction of these valuable bits of high quality woodland.


Gatwick ancient woodland

Map of the area just south of Gatwick airport showing Rowley Wood, Huntsgreen Wood and woodland at Bonnets Lane. All would be flattened by a new wide-spaced runway.