Environmental considerations relevant to woodland expansion

Read the tables below to find out more about the data highlighted on the woodland planting considerations map and what to do if data is shown on or very near your potential planting site.

Ecology and geology

Environmental data highlighted on the DCC environment viewer Further information What to do

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)

Special Area of Conservation (SAC)

Special Protection Area (SPA)

National Nature Reserve (NNR)

These are statutory National designations.  These sites already have high nature conservation value and are protected by law. They are likely to be very sensitive to changes in land cover or land management and some changes such as tree establishment could damage the existing habitat value. There may be opportunities to enhance the biodiversity value of some sites but statutory consent and/or consultation with specialists in relevant national and local agencies will always be needed. Visit the Natural England Designated Sites View to find out why the SSSI is designated and how to contact Natural England for advice.
Local Nature Reserve (LNR) These are designations made by the local authority on land they control. The site will be locally important for wildlife, geology, education, and enjoyment, and will be protected through policies of the Local Plan. There may be opportunities for tree establishment if this fits with the site’s management objectives and any byelaws in force. Contact the relevant Local Authority.
Ancient Woodland Ancient woodlands are important and rare wildlife sites. Tree establishment opportunities are likely to be very limited and will need to be carefully considered in terms of location, species, and method. Planting of rides and glades should be avoided – open areas and woodland edges provide important habitats and add to the woodland’s structural diversity.   Natural regeneration is likely to be the preferred option rather than tree planting. Always seek advice from an ecologist

View the Woodland Trust’s advice on Ancient woods

The Woodland Trust also offers free visits and assessments of ancient woodlands. Please contact the South West Outreach team for more information:  WoodlandOutreachEnglandSouthWest@woodlandtrust.org.uk

County Wildlife Site (CWS) CWS are designated by an expert panel. All data is held and managed by the Devon Biodiversity Record Centre (DBRC).  . Potential for tree establishment depends on wildlife habitats present, for example tree establishment may reduce the wildlife value of unimproved grassland or heathland. Always seek advice from an ecologist. NOTE: The DCC Viewer shows the site centre point only, although does show the site boundary when zoomed out at  1:50,000 scale or greater. Obtain ecological advice: Contact the Devon Biodiversity Record Centre for data describing why the CWS is of wildlife value.
Special road verges A number of important verges within the county have been designated by Devon County Council as Special Verges, due to their exceptional wildlife value or their value to communities. Email: nature@devon.gov.uk
Cirl bunting breeding zones ‘Consultation Zones’ for cirl bunting have been established using data from 2016 and the RSPB Bird Conservation Targeting Programme (2010). As the cirl bunting has a winter range of 2km, consultation zones extend to a 2km ‘buffer’ around each record for this species – (see layer Cirl Bunting Consultation Zone (winter territory, 2km). RSPB research has shown that breeding cirl buntings forage no further than 250m from their nests and forage within 2km of their breeding areas in winter. Therefore, compensatory habitat within 250m of a cirl bunting breeding territory should therefore concentrate on providing additional breeding habitats and summer food resources, whilst those between 250m-2km should provide a variety of suitable habitats, including the provision of wintering food sources.

Find out more by reading wildlife and development guidance note for cirl buntings prepared by Devon County Council, Teignbridge District Council and Torbay Council.

Visit RSPB website where you will find information on The Cirl Bunting Conservation Project.


National Priority Habitats

These datasets describe the geographic extent and location of wildlife habitats of principal importance, as defined under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006) Section 41. Introduction of trees would actually reduce the wildlife value of many of these priority habitats, whilst others may have very limited capacity to accommodate trees.

Health warning: These datasets are unfortunately far from perfect and there will be priority habitats (especially species rich grasslands) which are not yet mapped.  Before planting on any grassland please do ensure that it is not species rich grassland.

For a more up to date map of Priority Habitats in Devon please contact Devon Biodiversity Records Centre.


Always seek specialist advice if you are unsure what habitats are present on your planting site.

Introduction of more trees should normally be avoided on the following priority habitats, and should only be considered following detailed assessment. These datasets are derived from the UK Biodiversity Action Plan with the except of culm grassland which sits within its own dataset (Culm Grassland Inventory):

  • UKBAP Blanket Bog
  • UKBAP Coastal Saltmarsh
  • UKBAP Coastal Sand Dunes
  • UKBAP Coastal Vegetated Shingle
  • UKBAP Fens
  • UKBAP Lowland Acid Grassland
  • UKBAP Lowland Calcareous Grassland
  • UKBAP Lowland Heathland
  • UKBAP Lowland Meadow
  • UKBAP Maritime Cliff and Slope
  • UKBAP Mudflats
  • UKBAP Reedbeds
  • UKBAP Upland Heathland
  • UKBAP Purple Moor Grass and Rush Pasture plus Culm Grassland Inventory (Culm Grassland Inventory is a different dataset but comes under ‘Purple Moor Grass and Rush Pasture’. The two datasets overlap on the Viewer)

Seek specialist advice to identify whether there is any potential to accommodate more trees of suitable species on the following priority habitats:

  • UKBAP Lowland Mixed Deciduous Woodland
  • UKBAP Undetermined Woodland
  • UKBAP Wet Woodland
  • UKBAP Wood and Parkland
  • UKBAP Lowland Beech and Yew Woodland
  • UKBAP Upland Ashwoods
  • UKBAP Coastal and Floodplain Grazing Marsh
  • UKBAP Traditional Orchards

Forestry Commission Woodland Officers offers advice to ensure your woodland creation scheme complies with the UKFS – including habitat sensitivity. This is crucial for sites where the Forestry Commission pays a grant for a Woodland Creation Plan and that may require screening for EIA (dependent on the scale and location of the site- see further advice in Step 1: Identify your objectives). They can also offer advice on smaller schemes.

Historic environment

Environmental data highlighted on the DCC environment viewer Further information What to do

World Heritage Sites (WHS)

Scheduled Monuments (SM)

Registered Historic Parks Gardens (HPG)

Listed Buildings and their curtilages

These are Nationally Designated Heritage Assets and are likely to be the most sensitive to tree planting/regeneration on or adjacent to the site.  Ensure the setting of designated heritage assets is not harmed by new trees once mature e.g. by blocking important short or distant views to/from the asset. Seek specialist advice if unsure.

There may be opportunities to enhance some historic parks and gardens and the setting of Listed Buildings for example by restoring parkland tree cover or woodland. Statutory consent and/or consultation with specialists in relevant national and local agencies will be needed. If the site is subject to an approved Site Management Plan / Restoration Plan, ensure tree establishment is in accordance with this.

For Devon & Cornwall Mining Landscape WHS contact DCC Historic Environment Service and the relevant local authority Conservation Officer.

For Jurassic Coast WHS contact the Jurassic Coast Trust

For Scheduled Monuments: contact Historic England and DCC Historic Environment Service

For Grade I or 2* Listed Buildings and their setting: contact Historic England and the relevant local authority Conservation Officer; For Grade 2 Listed buildings and their setting: contact the relevant local authority Conservation Officer.

For Registered Historic Parks and Gardens Grade 1 and 2*: contact Historic England

For Registered Historic Parks and Gardens (all Grades): contact the Devon Gardens Trust, DCC Historic Environment Service and the relevant local authority Conservation Officer.

Conservation Areas

Locally Listed sites

These are Locally Designated Heritage Assets and could potentially be sensitive to tree planting/ regeneration on or adjacent to the site. However, some types of tree establishment in or around Conservation Areas may be beneficial and could enhance its character and appearance, for example restoring former orchards or parklands that could enhance the setting of conservation area. Consult the relevant local authority Conservation Officer

Historic Environment Record Monuments (points and polygons)

Strip field systems

The Historic Environment Record (HER) includes some non-designated sites where tree establishment could damage their heritage value. For example, tree roots could physically damage archaeological features of interest (such as earthworks and cropmarks).

Tree planting / regeneration is therefore generally not recommended on earthwork or cropmark sites. New woodland areas could damage or obscure historically significant or rare field patterns (such as Medieval Strip Field Systems) and their ancient Devon hedgebank boundaries that contribute to the unique historic character and special qualities of a place. Ancient and intact field patterns occurring in National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty can be particularly sensitive to changes in land cover.

Instead of creating new woodland in these sensitive historic landscapes, consider other ways to increase tree cover that meets your objectives, for example, by changing hedge management regimes or species compositions to enhance biodiversity and increase carbon storage. See Devon Hedge Group guidance. Seek specialist advice if unsure.

Contact DCC Historic Environment Service
Orchards Traditional orchards were once widespread in Devon.  Protect and restore surviving orchards or consider restoring lost orchards rather than changing these sites to other types of woodland.  More information on identifying historic orchard sites and other lost woodland cover is provided in Step 5. Seek specialist advice from Orchards Live, Orchard Link, or other local groups dedicated to orchard conservation and restoration.
Environmental data highlighted on the DCC environment viewer Further information What to do
Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) and National Parks AONBs and National Parks are the highest level of landscape designation in England and Wales. They share a common purpose- to conserve and enhance natural beauty. Due to their high sensitivity to landscape change, tree planting schemes above 2ha will require screening for Environmental Impact Assessment by the Forestry Commission. See Step 1: Identify your objectives.

Further details on the special qualities and distinctive character of the AONBs and National Parks can be found in their respective Management Plans. Find out more, including links to websites of all Devon’s protected landscapes here: National and UNESCO designations – Environment (devon.gov.uk)


Selected Landscape Character Types:

  • LCT 1K Unsettled High Upland Moorland
  • LCT 4A Estuaries
  • LCT 4F Dunes
  • LCT 4H Cliffs

Landscape Character Types are generic landscapes that share similar characteristics. They form part of Devon’s landscape character assessments which help to convey how Devon’s landscape varies in character across the county.

Find out more about Devon’s landscape character assessments.

The landscape character types highlighted here have not previously been enclosed into fields.  They are of exceptional sensitivity to new tree planting because of their combination of open character, panoramic views, exposed feel, ecology, and heritage value. There may be limited opportunities for natural regeneration in selected locations within these LCTs, such as on moorland valley sides. In general these landscapes are considered unsuitable for tree planting or have very limited opportunities.

Contact your local council’s Landscape Officer for further information.

Back to Step 3