There is a commonly held misconception that woodlands, left alone, will just look after themselves. This is not the case. In fact, one of the greatest threats to woodland is lack of management.

This is why Mr Degen’s assertions in his letter (World is different place, Letters, January 31) about the council’s proactive management of Whippendell Wood are simply wrong.

READ MORE: Letter: We can't afford to lose more trees

We are committed to ensuring Whippendell remains an outstanding woodland to be enjoyed by our community for years to come and continues as a wonderfully diverse habitat for a remarkable range of plants and wildlife. And this means undertaking carefully planned and low impact management, when necessary.

The Independent Panel on Forestry (2012) stated “action taken now to increase the resilience of our woodland resource will help reduce the future costs of dealing with the effects of climate change.”

This is why we are taking action now, creating a diverse mix of tree species through good woodland management and increasing light levels by thinning out the tree canopy. We are removing diseased or damaged trees and ones obstructing veteran trees, widening woodland rides and creating small glades that support greater biodiversity for insects, birds and small mammals.

We also need to tackle invasive plants like rhododendron, cherry laurel and snowberry. These are spreading rapidly, forcing out native bluebells, wood anemone, and the scarce coralroot bittercress. Without intervention, the plants will shade and outcompete the ancient woodland flora. We would be looking at the woods no longer meriting their SSSI ‘favourable’ status, which I believe would be a biodiversity disaster for the area.

Finally, trees of the same age and structure do not support a range of habitats for wildlife and are likely to be less resilient to the impacts of climate change than well managed woodland. A healthy woodland is one that has a good mix of tree species of all ages, from saplings, veteran trees to deadwood, with glades and rides to provide a wide range of habitats for wildlife to colonise.

As our flora and fauna face what is the stark challenge of climate change – not just warmer, wetter winters but hotter summers, damaging storms and high winds and destructive new pests and diseases, I firmly believe we should be actively doing what we can to preserve our local habitats.

Once gone they would be lost forever – not a great legacy for future generations of Watford residents.

And in response to Mr Degen’s challenge to plant new trees in Watford - I am sure he will be pleased to know that new trees are planted every year across the town from street trees to those in parks and open spaces. Over the next year, we are working with Veolia on a major tree planting programme, creating new sites as well as replacing any damaged or lost trees.

Cllr Tim Williams

Portfolio Holder for Client Services, Watford Borough Council