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AWDev (NCF): Ancient Woodland and Development Impacts

Home research AWDev (NCF): Ancient Woodland and Development Impacts

Ancient woodlands provide some of Great Britain’s most biodiverse and culturally significant habitats. Current planning policy aims to protect these ‘irreplaceable’ habitats from the direct and indirect impacts of nearby development. However, assessing the potential impact of development on nearby habitats is complex and impeded by evidence gaps. Our aim is to deliver evidence to underpin future policy, practice, and industry guidance critical to safeguarding ancient woodlands whilst supporting responsible development and woodland use.

This project is closely aligned with the Forestry Commission led project, AWDev (‘Project Speed’; PS). We are working across these two projects to co-develop a synergistic programme of work.

Research objectives

  • Assemble an expert committee of key stakeholders to help identify, characterise and prioritise evidence gaps and policy/practice needs around the impact of development on ancient woodland (AW) condition, informing mitigation across a range of contexts.
  • Focusing on the priority evidence gaps and policy needs identified, run a field work campaign to collect data on how development impacts on AW condition whilst accounting for interactions between multiple pressures, and site and landscape characteristics.
  • Use this information to quantify and map the scale of the issue now, historically and under future scenarios and update policy and practical guidance.
  • Explore and identify how best to frame messages and communicate responsible use of AW amongst the public and other stakeholders.

Latest updates

Our first step is to identify, characterise and prioritise evidence gaps and policy/practice needs around the impact of development on AW condition. We are using a research-prioritization exercise (RPE) to gather this information which involves a wide initial survey consultation followed by an in-person workshop with a smaller selection of participants.

Research Status
Spatial Scientist
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Funding & partners
  • ‘AwDev’ is a 2.5 year project funded by Defra’s Nature for Climate Fund that started at the end of 2022. It involves a joint interdisciplinary team of landscape ecologists, social scientists, forest ecologists and planning/policy experts from the University of Reading, Forest Research, Forestry Commission England, Natural England and Defra.