Step 3: Check for potential sensitivities

There are some locations where planting trees (or allowing them to regenerate) could cause harm to existing valued habitats, heritage, or landscapes. It is therefore essential that you check your site for potential sensitivities before commencing any scheme of any size. This section shows you how.

Check the Devon County Council Environment Viewer

Use this link to the woodland planting considerations map on Devon County Council’s Environment Viewer to check whether your potential woodland creation site falls within any known sites of ecological, archaeological, and historic importance or a landscape that may be sensitive to an increase in tree cover.

The Viewer also includes data that indicates opportunities to restore lost features such as orchards and hedges. The link is pre-highlighted to show known environmental information relevant to woodland creation. See the tables on our environmental considerations page for more information and what you should do if data is highlighted on your planting site.

Check for existing wildlife value

Firstly, you need to ensure that any tree planting or natural regeneration won’t impact any existing valuable wildlife habitats such as flower rich grasslands, wetlands, or heathland.

Some of these habitats such as heathland will be obvious – others, such as species-rich grassland can look very uninteresting during the winter months. These habitats have evolved over centuries but suffered huge declines over the last 50 years and we need to protect our remaining fragments. They are often found on steep slopes and unproductive areas of farmland – exactly where we might consider planting trees!

Similarly, slopes or corners with tussock grassland might be obvious places to plant but these areas support small mammals and insects and may be critical feeding areas for bats and birds.

Some of these habitats have been surveyed and given wildlife designations or are mapped as ‘priority habitats’. Designated habitats together with National Priority Habitats sourced from the Government’s MAGIC website are shown on the woodland planting considerations map on the Environment Viewer.

Devon Priority habitats, along with species records, can be obtained from Devon Biodiversity Records Centre. If you’re unsure, please wait until summer to find out if a field is species rich and if you are still unsure, please contact the Devon Local Nature Partnership to see where you can get specialist advice.

Some areas might have small patches of rich open habitat amongst areas of less interest. A well-designed woodland can enhance the existing habitats, leaving open space to allow connectivity and whilst increasing diversity of a site with the addition of woody habitats.

grasses and a thistle in a field
Unimproved flower-rich grassland in summer

A grassy field

Unimproved flower-rich grassland in winter

Step 4: Choose the right place

Step 2: Follow key principles – Devon Local Nature Partnership (