In response to Owen Paterson’s interview in the Times on Saturday 4 January, a spokesperson at the National Trust said: “We are deeply concerned about the article in the Times regarding biodiversity offsetting for housing to include 400 year old woodland.
“Offsetting the losses of wildlife that usually accompany development by creating replacement habitats could be a useful addition to the planning system. But it mustn’t mean mature irreplaceable habitats being replaced by low-quality habitats that will take decades to develop the character and complexity of those that have been lost. There will be some habitats that are effectively irreplaceable and should not be part of any offsetting scheme.
“We advocate a ‘brownfield’ first approach when it comes to new housing developments and to find alternatives to the creep of development into the countryside. One of our charitable purposes is to conserve and protect ancient and historic woodland. What Mr Paterson has said today appears to go against the Government’s Green Paper on biodiversity offsetting published in September, and also raises cause for concern over protection of the green belt.”