16th November 2016
Protection for ancient trees at historic sites across England
Historic England, the public body that looks after England’s historic environment, is probably best known for its work with historic buildings and monuments, but it also cares about natural environments, and has now made a firm commitment to protecting ancient and other veteran trees.
This autumn, Historic England’s Director of Planning, Chris Smith, signed the Ancient Tree Forum’s Concordat, at a meeting with Russell Miller, Chair of the Ancient Tree Forum, and other trustees. The document begins with the statement that ‘Ancient trees are a vital and treasured part of the natural and cultural landscape. They support a stunning diversity of wildlife and are a very important and highly valued part of our heritage.’ The Concordat goes on to set out a vision for ancient and other veteran trees to be safeguarded, and outlines the commitment it expects from its signatories, which also include the National Trust and the Arboricultural Association.
By signing the Concordat, Historic England and other signatories agree to support the Ancient Tree Forum with a range of actions such as completing an inventory of the location of all ancient and culturally important trees, and ensuring that issues related to ancient or heritage tree conservation and protection are included in relevant policies and legislation.
Alan Cathersides, one of Historic England’s two National Landscape Advisers, and co-opted supporter of the Ancient Tree Forum, aims to ensure that veteran trees at historic sites like Snodhill Castle in Herefordshire (pictured), are valued and cared for appropriately. ‘A newly formed trust, which is being assisted by Historic England, hopes to carry out urgent stabilisation works to some of the remaining walls at Snodhill Castle, so that the site can be opened to the public. We will be encouraging them to include the interesting ecology of the site and especially the veteran trees, in any interpretation at the site.’
The work of Historic England includes running the listing system, dealing with planning matters related to protecting historic sites, and giving grants. The national heritage collection of hundreds of sites in the ownership or guardianship of the government is now looked after by the English Heritage Trust, since the former English Heritage was split into two separate organisations in April 2015. The Ancient Tree Forum now hopes to set up a tripartite partnership arrangement with the two bodies, to take forward work to protect veteran trees at historic sites.