AN action plan to transform a national park dale which has suffered from years of “industrial forestry activity” into a haven for wildlife has been welcomed.

Members of the North York Moors National Park Authority said the launch of the Forestry Commission’s long-term plan for the 203-hectare forest in the “lost dale” of Bransdale could not start soon enough.

Officers told an authority meeting considering the commission’s plan that the area north of Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley had seen significant felling over the last 12 years and all the plantations were on valley sides that were highly visible.

After members raised concerns that forestry contractors left felled areas “looking like a World War One battlefield”, officers said there had been “a realisation that we don’t want to do that again”.

The meeting was told the landscape issues were being resolved by replacing coniferous plantations with woods solely composed of broad-leafed trees, creating “more appropriate open wooded habitats”.

Once all the coniferous trees have been felled, the forest will be managed primarily for environmental benefits and future tree harvesting would be strictly limited, officers said.

Members said while the plan featured ambitions to boost habitats for snipe, woodcock, willow warblers, garden warblers, dunnocks, yellowhammers and redstarts, they hoped care would be taken to make the deciduous forest a suitable environment to reintroduce red squirrels.

Member Jeremy Walker said the commission’s shift from commercial to environmental objectives reflected the aspirations of the park authority, while member Patrick James added: “Removal of conifer plots across the national park will only enhance the landscape and wildlife.”

The meeting was told while Bransdale was not sufficiently isolated to become a wildlife reserve, the main risks of the target habitats not being met was the failure of natural colonisation by native species, so the authority would intervene if the targets were not being met.