Some forests could be stripped of protection under planning reforms being considered by the Government, the Woodland Trust has warned.
The conservation charity says the changes to planning guidance could slip through unnoticed in the aftermath of the row that forced the Government into a U-turn over its plans to privatise public forests.
According to the trust, a review that aims to consolidate the 25 clauses in the current legislation as part of an attempt to hand power back to local communities, could leave ancient woodlands without sufficient safeguards.
Currently, one of the planning policy statements explicitly recognises that ancient woodland is important for wildlife and says local authorities should not grant planning permission for development that will lead to its loss or damage. The trust fears this ban could be weakened if authorities believed the benefits of development outweighed loss of habitat.