It seems that our unmandated government really has it in for our forests. They have thus-far failed to slip through a bill that would allow them to sell our woodlands to private firms who would subsequently turn them into a profit-making commodity. So now they’re going to revise planning laws making it easier for developers to, well, develop on them.
If we are to believe our government (snigger), these proposed new planning policies will have no impact on our green and pleasant land but their promises will soon be put to the test according this article in today’s Guardian. The writer tells us that Oaken Wood in Kent is potentially at risk due to an application for a quarry extension and this highlights some serious concerns. From the article:
At stake, under a single application for the extension of an existing quarry, is 32 hectares of ancient woodland, home to rare lady orchids, firecrests and nightingales. Under pressure from conservation groups including the Woodland Trust, and thanks to the efforts of local campaigners, Eric Pickles, local government secretary, called in the controversial application in July last year. It is scheduled to go to public inquiry in November. . . .
. . . . Today, ancient woodland covers just 2.7% of England and is home to more wildlife of conservation concern than any other terrestrial habitat. These woods are irreplaceable and require protection.
For goodness sake folks, you heard him! We don’t have much ancient woodland left in England and when it’s gone, it’s gone! Our woodlands are important on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start but to paraphrase Earl Attlee when asked what plans they had to improve ancient woodland protection in the final version of the National Planning Policy Framework, he said it’s not possible to put an economic value on ancient woodland because it is irreplaceable.
It all takes me back to a time, many moons ago, when I camped out in a beautiful ancient woodland with a bunch of tree-hugging eco-warriors in an effort to stop it from being bulldozed to make way for the M65. Well, I say camped-out . . . taking food, drinks and blankets each day to the protesters and generally playing a supportive role would be closer to the truth but hey, I was there with the likes of Swampy, suitably clad in wellies, camouflage trousers and an attitude.
The protesters weren’t all stereotypical tree huggers with dreadlocks and doc-martens but they became known by the locals (who mostly supported them it has to be said) as the Tree People. And these guys were fantastic. They were radical and inventive and totally committed. They’d lived in those self-built tree-houses for months and they were determined not to give way. The stakes were high and their determination was downright heroic. They constructed a woodland network of ropes and tree-top walkways so that they were all connected making it very difficult for the axe-men to chop even one tree down without risking the life of a protester. As non-violent resisters they suffered many injuries at the hands of the burly security men but they never gave up. At one point militant-me had a very heated debate with the sheriff of somewhere-or-other (probably not Nottingham) but, being the mardy-pants that I am, I backed off when two large, grumpy-looking policemen started to walk towards me with intent. Yep, I was passionately proactive and I really believed in the cause but those coppers looked big and mean and there’d already been several arrests.
Anyhoo, needless to say, we were unsuccessful in our efforts. The inevitable forced eviction took place and those yellow-hats stood smugly by as the activists were dragged ruthlessly from the their tree-houses. Subsequently, and very sadly, the beautiful woodland, where deer used to roam and wildflowers grew freely, was razed to the ground. And now a dirty, great big concrete motorway sits in its place.
I might have turned into little more than a keyboard warrior since then but I’ll tell you this folks – if our few remaining woodlands are put under serious threat of demolition because of these proposals, I WILL GET OFF MY LAZY ARSE! I will reclaim my activism mojo! I will tie myself to a tree and I won’t budge until those bloody useless, self-serving, arrogant set of nobs in government do something positive and permanent to protect our magnificent and vitally, vitally important woodlands.
I kid you not.