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29 November 2012
Woodland Trust Chief Executive Sue Holden said:
"Nick Boles' comments to Newsnight, in which he says 'The built environment can be more beautiful than nature' and in which he has claimed that we need to 'build on another 2-3% of land and we'll have solved the housing problem' betray an outdated view on the natural environment and one which is out of step with Coalition Policy, as articulated through the National Planning Policy Framework and the Natural Environment White Paper.
"Whilst the Woodland Trust is supportive of the need to provide decent affordable homes, these must not come at the cost of our natural environment. In his remarks, Mr Boles does not only ignore existing land availability, he fails to recognise that some aspects of nature are irreplaceable. Unlike new buildings, ancient woodland cannot be recreated. We are told by the Government that economic growth and environmental enhancement can go hand in hand but this kind of statement does little to promote confidence in its commitment to a balanced approach.
"The Woodland Trust is currently fighting to protect 32ha of an ancient wood from destruction by the extension of a quarry to meet a demand for ragstone, a mineral used historically in buildings throughout the country. Demand for housing brings with it an insatiable demand for aggregates and the 2-3% of land that Mr Boles proposes for 'beautiful' housing could turn into far more, and could result in the further fragmentation of irreplaceable habitats that already face challenge from all corners.
"Conversations with Owen Paterson and communication with David Cameron following an event held in celebration of the Woodland Trust's 40th birthday in Parliament yesterday, revealed support from both the Environment Secretary and the Prime Minister for retaining and protecting our environment and natural heritage. It is extremely disconcerting however, that this view does not seem to be shared across Government."