CONCERN has been expressed about plans which could destroy an area of "irreplaceable" ancient woodland as part of a flood prevention scheme.

The Woodland Trust has voiced its fears about the Natural Resources Wales (NRW) plans on part of the Cwm George and Casehill Woods site in Dinas Powys for the Cadoxton Brook Flood Scheme.

NRW held a public consultation session on November 8 at Dinas Powys Library on the plans which are designed to prevent the kind of flooding which blighted the area in 2007 and 2012.

One of the options put forward would see the construction of a grass covered dam across the river valley which could be closed during periods of very high rainfall to create a temporary reservoir upstream of Dinas Powys.

The Woodland Trust’s concern is that the dam would be adjacent to ancient woodland so, if the plan were to go ahead, an area of this would need to be cleared and more woodland could be damaged by periodic flooding when the reservoir was in use.

But Gavin Jones, project manager for Natural Resources Wales, said keeping communities safe from flooding is an important aspect of the NRW's work.

"We are consulting on a scheme to manage flood risk in the Dinas Powys area," he said.

"This consultation will include a number of options, one of which is to build a flood water storage area at Cwm George and Casehill Woods, which will impact on ancient woodland. We are aware of the concerns of the Woodland Trust and will take on board all comments from interested parties and the community before making our decision in the new year."

The trust says it has yet to discover exactly how much of the ancient woodland would have to be cleared if the scheme were to go ahead.

Once further information is made available, the trust intends to consult an external expert.

Jerry Langford, the Woodland Trust’s Wales director said: "Ancient woodland is irreplaceable and cannot be re-created.

"We are extremely concerned that this does not seem to have been factored into the consideration of options. Protecting ancient woodland is one of our key charitable purposes so we will challenge NRW’s approach as part of our obligation to stand up for ancient woodland and for all the local residents who contributed to the cost of bringing this woodland into our protective management.

"Casehill Wood is a hugely valued landscape, wildlife and recreational asset, acquired by the trust following a number of high profile public appeals."

The trust says it is still keen to speak to NRW about means of reducing flood risk in the local area, but points out that the Welsh Government’s own planning policy recognises ancient woodlands as "irreplaceable habitats of high biodiversity value which should be protected from development that would result in significant damage."

The trust also says that the assumption that damaging ancient woodland is acceptable may well be on conflict with the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which requires that economic, social and environmental issues are balanced in a way which ensures best outcomes for each, and which does not endorse environmental destruction to achieve economic and social benefits.

Mr Langford added: "We are open to discussion as regards any options that would reduce the risk of flooding for homes and businesses in the local area.

"But we will argue for options that are more compatible with Planning Policy Wales, that is, that protect ancient woodland, and challenge options that are not.

"We also wish to be satisfied that the need for increased flood protection is not being driven by inappropriately located new building or development of land downstream or by a failure to adopt practices upstream that would slow flood run-off.

"NRW have demonstrated more innovative approaches elsewhere, and we are not satisfied that they have fully assessed other options here."