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When to convert woods and forests to open habitats in England: Government policy

These pages explain Government policy on when to convert woods and forests to open habitats in England.

The overall ambition is to balance land-use changes to generate landscapes that provide benefits to people and wildlife for the 21st Century.

The key principles are “the right tree in the right place” the “right habitat in the right place” and the “right change at the right pace”.

This is a positive step for biodiversity.  During the 20th Century large areas of heathland, moorland, wetland and unimproved grassland were planted with conifers or colonised by birch and pine. We now need to restore some of these areas by converting selected woods and forests into open habitat to look after species such as the Dorset heath, adder, sand lizard, woodlark, curlew and silver-studded blue butterfly, including helping them cope with climate change.

This is also a positive step for forestry. Overall, woodland removal will be balanced with increases in the rate of woodland creation to help achieve Government objectives for a low carbon economy and to ensure the area of woodland in England continues to increase.

The policy supports productive forestry by maintaining the area of productive woodland, such as conifers, and by preventing premature felling of trees.

Local people will be involved in site by site decisions.

We will achieve these aims by using:

  • A framework for site-by-site decision-making based on expanding high quality habitats;
  • A mechanism for balancing woodland removal with increased rates of woodland creation;
  • A process for ensuring local involvement in decision-making;
  • Standards for habitats created or woodland retained; and
  • Open and transparent evaluation of progress towards the outcomes we want.


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Last updated: 31st January 2018