The Woodland Trust says that while the new England Biodiversity Strategy (EBS) recognises the role of forestry and talks about protecting the natural environment it will be undone planning regulations which put natural environments at risk.

The Trust’s chief executive, Sue Holden, said the stated aim of the EBS to put “people at the heart” of biodiversity is encouraging, including the recognition of the role of key stakeholders and the wider public.

But she said there are “worrying contradictions” between the government’s environmental promises in the EBS and its newly proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), currently out for consultation until mid-October.

She welcomed the fact that the EBS recognises the role of forestry for biodiversity and states that the protection and improvement of the natural environment will be retained as core objectives of the planning system.

“And yet ancient woodland is still threatened by a caveat in the development-focused NPPF, which states that it will only be protected ‘unless the need for, and benefits of, development outweigh the loss’,” she said.

She is also critical of the fact that the detail of woodland restoration and creation has been left out of the EBS - a responsibility it passes over to the Independent Panel on Forestry.

“If policies of this nature are really to have an effect, it is crucial Government departments communicate with each other - and involve key stakeholders and the wider public. Without this joint working, it seems certain the Government will fail on its 2020 targets just as it failed in 2010.

“While the new EBS does seek to address some of the failures to halt biodiversity loss at a national level, it remains to be seen whether it is more than just warm words.

“The ongoing decline in species and habitats we have seen in recent years must now be reversed but I fear the EBS lacks the detail needed to really kick -start the ‘step change’ in biodiversity conservation that it claims it will achieve.”