|Wood at Farnley Tyas - Liz Rainer|
Ancient woodland in Yorkshire and the Humber could be sacrificed to building under proposals which open a new front in the battle to protect our environment.
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has suggested that developers could encroach upon ancient woodland if that was "offset" by planting new trees elsewhere.
But this is more than about numbers. Ancient woodland, by definition, has been in existence since at least 1600. New planting could not replicate the rich biodiversity which has grown up over centuries in places such as Smithy Wood, Sheffield, Bowden Housteads at Handsworth, nor the sites threatened by HS2, Water Haigh Woodland Park near Leeds and Woodhouse Washlands, near Sheffield.
Andrew Cooper, lead candidate for the Green Party in Yorkshire and the Humber at this year's Euro elections said:
"The Government obsession with HS2 and with woodland selloffs cannot be permitted to destroy nature's surviving crown jewels. Ministers are working in Brussels to weaken EU conservation laws; at home, they have slashed the budgets of official conservation bodies and are now looking for ways to smooth the path for development, even in special areas.
"The Conservatives have lost their one-time calling as conservers of our natural and cultural heritage. Here in Britain we shouldn’t be leaving it to the EU to be the force for good in nature conservation. It means preserving, not destroying, our remaining ancient woodlands."
The Government sees biodiversity offsetting as a means to make the planning system more efficient. The Greens see ancient woodland as being like a person: it isn't replaceable, it's a unique organism and old ones contain a depth and complexity that only long undisturbed stretches of time can create.