George Mombiot questions Owen Paterson's motives for agreeing to build a motor service station in an ancient woodland with historical importance for the local people. "A tree is a tree" Ronald Reagan once said and Paterson is prepared to cut down the ancient woodland as long as more trees are planted than destroyed. Perhaps if the environmental secretary had paid some attention in ecology lessons he would know that an ancient woodland is not the same as monoculture of newly planted saplings.
On the outskirts of Sheffield there is a wood which, some 800 years ago, was used by the monks of Kirkstead Abbey to produce charcoal for smelting iron. For local people, Smithy Wood is freighted with stories. Among the trees you can imagine your way into another world. The application to plant a motorway service station in the middle of it, wiping out half the wood and fragmenting the rest, might have been unthinkable a few months ago. No longer.