1. ITV Report

Ancient woodland threatened

Oaken Wood, near Maidstone is under threat from plans to expand a quarry Photo: ITV Meridian

A threatened ancient woodland could become an important test case for the Government planning guidelines, according to the Woodland Trust.

Last May, Kent County Council approved plans for the expansion of a quarry adjacent to the ancient Oaken Wood at Barming.

The plans were subsequently called in by the Secretary of State, Eric Pickles and a public inquiry is due to be held in November.

The plans would see the destruction of 32 hectares of ancient woodland which campaigners say is irreplaceable.

But Landowner Gallgher Aggregates which owns the land and put in the application says that double the amount of new native trees will be planted in place of those which are removed.

Nick Yandle, chief executive, said: "At the moment it's sweet chestnut coppice - we will be replacing it with native trees."

He added that the process of quarrying would take part over the course of 23 years, removing trees and replanting in 15 distinct stages.

Campaigners say that Oaken Wood is a haven for many rare plants and birds Credit: ITV Meridian

Campaigners remain unconvinced. They say that the woodland is home to rare lady orchids, firecrests and nightingales.

And they say that the Government's recently announced changes to planning rules could mean that many more ancient woodland like Oaken Wood could be under threat.

Austin Brady, head of conservation for the Woodland Trust, said: " The Government has done nothing to clarify the rules surrounding this irreplaceable habitat, leaving decisions on its use open to wide interpretation.

"It remains just as likely as before that cases like Oaken Wood will be fought one by one across the countryside."

Oaken Wood lies just outside of the village of Barming, near Maidstone Credit: ITV Meridian

The scale of this potential loss puts it at the high end of the spectrum but it is just one of numerous situations where irreplaceable ancient woods are threatened by development."

– Austin Brady, The Woodland Trust