Some quarters, particularly the forestry sector, are reacting with indignation and protest. In these times of climate change, it is argued, surely woodlands should be preserved, not eliminated. But what the RSPB are doing in Farnham, Surrey, by felling the conifer plantations, is restoring heathland, an increasingly rare habitat in Britain. What’s more, they are lobbying the government to clear more non-native conifers, a move that would favour biodiversity and species such as the nightjar, woodlark, sand lizard and adder, which thrive in more open shrubby areas.
As project manager Mike Coates succinctly puts it, “It should be the right tree in the right place. A field of barley is a field of grass, but it’s not a meadow; it’s a crop. In the same way, these are areas of land dominated by trees, but they are not woods, they are crops.” Photograph: Graham Turner Guardian