HC Deb 19 March 1986 vol 94 cc287-8
14. Mr. Flannery

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what is his policy towards the conservation of rare species of flora and fauna in woodlands; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Waldegrave

Rare species of flora and fauna, and their habitats, are protected under the terms of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In woodlands owned by the Forestry Commission, all rare species are recorded in forest district conservation plans. Where appropriate, the Forestry Commission has set up its own protection schemes.

Mr. Flannery

Is the Minister confident that under privatisation flora and fauna will be properly protected under the Act? I refer to a case that has just occurred in my constituency. A man who owned two small woods, called Coombes wood—he lives in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, West and Penistone (Mr. McKay)—sold them to the Forestry Commission in 1958 for £200. He is poverty-stricken. He has just been offered them back by the Forestry Commission for £25,000. Does the Minister infer from that that whoever has £25,000 will acquire those two woods out of a love of flora and fauna and that such a person will defend them?

Mr. Waldegrave

I am not sure how this relates to flora and fauna, but I have inquired into Coombes wood as I thought that the hon. Gentleman might be interested in it. I am told that they have no rare species and little conservation interest. Therefore, it is not relevant to this question.

Mr. Kenneth Carlisle

Does my hon. Friend agree that many ancient woods need to he coppiced if they are to preserve their flora and fauna? Is he also aware that this beneficial practice is often not undertaken because coppicing is not economic and that consequently it is difficult to develop markets for coppicing products?

Mr. Waldegrave

My hon. Friend is right about the problems. They are not easy to solve. But project Silvanus, to which I referred earlier, is looking into that matter among others. It is not easy to solve the problem of the drop in demand for these small woods that are scattered throughout the country.

Dr. David Clark

Given that the main protection of flora and fauna comes under the SSSI scheme, will the Minister explain—as exemplified by his hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mrs. Rumbold), in an answer on 10 March about West Mercia—what happens if the Government decide that an area is an SSSI but later decide that it is not of national importance? Is it Government policy that here should be two types of SSSI—national and non-national?

Mr. Waldegrave

As the hon. Gentleman knows the Act inside-out, he is well aware that the 1981 Act requires Ministers, before making a nature conservation order, to be satisfied that the site concerned is of special interest and of national importance. When the public inquiry looked into the evidence relating to the site to which the hon. Gentleman referred, it came to the conclusion that it was not of national importance. I have no legal grounds on which to overrule the inspector's report.

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