The owner of Epping Forest has dismissed claims it could be under threat of development if a government proposal comes into force.

Environment secretary Owen Paterson suggested some ancient woodland could be destroyed to make way for housing, if trees are planted elsewhere.

Green Party member Rupert Read warned that the so-called ‘biodiversity offsetting’ scheme could lead to the destruction of areas in Epping Forest.

But the Superintendent of the Forest, which is owned by the Corporation of London and has more ancient trees than any other site in the UK, has dismissed the claim.

Paul Thomson said: “There is no threat to the forest.

“London and Essex’s biggest green space is protected from development under the Epping Forest Act 1878, which says the City of London Corporation, as Conservators,  must keep the ancient woodland “unenclosed and unbuilt on as an open space for the recreation and enjoyment of the people". 

“It is also protected because it is a Special Site of Scientific Interest and an EU Special Area of Conservation.”

“We are expanding the forest by planting another 4,000 at our new ‘Gifford Wood’ site in Upshire.”

Before Christmas 100 residents helped to plant the first 2000 new trees after the 30 acre site was secured by the City Corporation of London in July 2012.