The future of England’s forests – a new chapter

Thursday saw the beginning of a new chapter for Forestry Policy. It’s been a long journey, but the result is a fairly promising platform.

Just over 6 months ago, the Independent Panel on Forestry’s Final Report was published, setting out a range of recommendations united by the call for the development of ‘a new woodland culture’. We were pleased to see in response to the publication the then Secretary of State saying the Public Forest Estate (PFE) was safe. Therefore the first thing to applaud in the official response to the Final Report is confirmation that a new body should hold the PFE “in trust for the nation” – the Government has listened to the hundreds of thousands of voices demanding that it remains in public ownership.

Image: defra.gov.uk

With Panel members on one of our site visits, Angley Wood in Kent

There are other highlights that, as a Panel member, I’m particularly pleased to see acknowledged in the response. We now effectively have a new forests policy for England. We have a woodland expansion target for first time in England. We have got reaffirmation of ‘Keepers of Time’ which has an objective of no loss of ancient woodland. And crucially, the Government has got the message about working in partnership to create a new woodland culture in England.

But there are a few remaining issues. The Government has a rather limited view of what protection means – development through the planning process is still a major threat to ancient woodland, despite the repetition of the qualified protection in the NPPF. We’ll find out in June, when the decision on Oaken Wood is due, whether Defra’s fine words on protection hold any sway with the planning ministers. PAWS restoration is mentioned, but no new implementation strategy promised – it should have the same priority as open habitat restoration. Many initiatives are deferred for future consideration or discussion.

Perhaps the biggest uncertainty is the future of Forest Services; the part of the Forestry Commission which currently provides advice and support on economic as well as the social and environmental aspects of forestry. If the government is serious about the woodland culture, Forest Services has a key leadership role in relation to the 82% of England’s woodland outside of the PFE. We have some concerns, first aired by Hilary Allison, that Austin Brady will expand upon in another blog.

We are one of several partners implementing forestry policy on the ground, with a good track record on woodland management, PAWS restoration, policy development, engaging with schools and community groups, and of course planting millions of trees! The partnership approach is the way forward, but this is a two-way process – we will deliver more if the government help us to help them. So let’s keep the government to account on what they’ve promised to deliver, or consider, in the future.

 

*Keep the debate alive and catch up with more posts in our ‘Forests Report’ series: http://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/category/forests-report-2/

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162 Responses to The future of England’s forests – a new chapter

  1. Hmm it looks like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess
    I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I too am an aspiring blog writer but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any tips for first-time blog writers? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  2. Mike Boulton says:

    I cannot make sense of this post.
    Please re-write using normal English grammar.
    Secondly, I get a large number of emails and tend to delete any that do not seem relevant to me. This includes many posts from the USA so if you are refering to British money please do not write Dollars which is no quicker and potentially confusing.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Hello Mike – that last comment was spam which managed to sneak past our filter. Apologies. If you are still receiving emails about this post then I wonder if you initially ticked the box to see every comment; you should be able to reverse this via your account settings. Best, Kaye

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  4. Like with so many things that are precious to us, the “use it or lose it” principle also applies to our forests and woodlands. The more people we can encourage to visit them, write and talk about them and, most importantly, love them, the more opposition we will be able to muster every time they are threatened. So, as a start, let’s encourage our family and friends to get out there are walk and play in our woodlands. I’m sure many of us are outlaws at heart so living in, with and for the forests should be second-nature :)

  5. Referring to an earlier comment I’m not sure we do really ‘need’ conifer plantations. Surely we just haven’t got the space to enter into this market commercially? And they are so ugly compared to a broad leaved woodland and of far less value.

    As Oliver Rackham says in The History of the Countryside, conservation is also about preserving the historic landscape, which is a visual asset as well as an ecological one. If trees were allowed to GROW – yes, they don’t need to be planted! and the new naturally forming woodlands were managed (you’d have to brush cut brambles and weed out sycamore in the beginning), this would provide plenty of employment for young people – why can’t we make our broom handles and burn our own charcoal at the summer bbq etc etc out of coppiced wood, one of the most diverse habitats around.

    These new woodlands would be far more lovely to look at centuries into the future, instead of those soulless soldiers of planting that pass for a new wood these days.

    On another note, it’s actually biodiverse grasslands that are under the most threat, not woodland.

    • Clive Coles says:

      Afraid we have to be realistic thinkingcowgirl ~ you cannot create an ancient broadleaf woodland overnight. If we just waited for them to GROW where they wanted most of us would be dead before that vision was realised. Over the centuries landscape has always been “managed”.

      Plantation forests are faster growing and are commercial. Without the income from harvesting trees we would not have a Forestry Commission. Like it or not the coniferous plantations produce timber help balance the books. That’s one of the reasons that such forests are “needed”

      And, apart from wildlife , they also provide a much needed public amenity in East Anglia where I live. These are counties which are intensively farmed ~ much of our landscape is privately owned and open access is restricted. The forests serve as our green lung where folk can walk and enjoy both the outdoor environment and recreational pursuits.

      We do of course need to also manage and expand our Ancient woodlands and plant as diverse a landscape as we can where wildlife will thrive.

      But the plantation forests do also support a bio-diverse habitat ~ over the last 20 years in particular the regimentation of planting has been softened as areas are restocked. Rides are being widened, boundaries are becoming sculpted, grass and heather covered areas are being encouraged within the forest and a greater variety of species are being introduced. Although some do continue to regard plantation forests as being “ugly” I for one disagree. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

      It’s really a question of doing best with what we have ~ there should be a place for all types of forest in our green and pleasent land.

      • I’m not in disagreement about managing land as you can see from my original comment. Trees which are allowed to self seed establish quicker than those which are planted – there was an experiment conducted after the 1987 storm in Epping Forest which proved this as they tried both methods and monitored them over ten years. Around me there are hundreds of sapling ash, oak and hawthorn and hazel, not a spade used anywhere! – and I’m not even in a heavily wooded area. Coppiced woodlands would not take centuries to make and become productive.

        I question the right of those living now to have it all in their lifetime – the human being is just another species which walks this earth. If that’s not ‘realistic’ I don’t care!

        It does sound like the FC is doing some important work to existing plantations but let’s keep it at that, though personally I’m in agreement with Abigail below. I’d like to see the books of the FC and just see how important this revenue is. Coniferous plantations are worked with heavy machinery and few people, coppice woodlands and their management and the products that could be produced could potentially be a healthy employment sector.

        • Clive Coles says:

          The nearest I can get to providing an assessment as to the importance of revenue from the timber processing industry is contained in the January Government response to the Forestry panel. On page 11 they stated :-
          “The forestry and primary timber processing sector contributes £1.7bn in gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy, supporting around 43,000 jobs”
          That’s no small beer ! If this revenue is to be sustained we have to accept that trees are often grown to be harvested but that felled areas also need to be restocked.
          We need I believe to support the existance of coniferous plantation forests whilst also protecting our ancient forests and developing new public and private woodlands. Commercial operations are part of the solution ~ they generate the bulk of the revenue that the sector requires.
          As with all issues there are differing shades of opinion as to what is “nice” and what is “ugly”. And there are a multiplicity of organisations and campaigning groups who share common ground. We need to build on the common objectives we do share and work together to:-
          Sustainably manage our forests and woodlands to support and provide , economic, people based, environmental and wildlife conservation benefits and…..
          Deliver the Forestry panels aspiration that the overall tree cover in the UK be expanded.
          Quite a challenge.

          • That is MUCH more than I’d realised. But I still think a bold vision for working coppice woodlands providing LOADS of everyday products would be a winner on all counts.

    • I TOTALLY agree with you thinking cowgirl!! The good thing is the Forestry Commission round us in Surrey are chopping down all the pine plantations they planted in the 1950’s and are turning it back to heathland which is what it was historically. All the ground nesting birds are returning as no birds like boring old pine forest! They are leaving all the broad leaf trees though. The other thing they are doing to make money is renting the woodland out to film companies – Skyfall the last one. It might look like the Highlands of Scotland on screen but it’s an EX pine forest in Surrey in reality!

      • Is that on Hankley Common Abigail? I know the area well, as I grew up around there. The heathland is amazing, my stomping ground was Frensham Common. My brother used to work as a warden there way back before ‘conservation’ became a known word! I was there when there was a huge fire and we really had to run…a bit scary. We used to do ‘habitat management’ and pull the odd scots pine for a christmas tree ;)

        • Clive Coles says:

          Yes Frensham and Hankley Commons are, and have been for many years, glorious places ~ I too lived in Surrey for many years. And what is happeng there now seems to be successful, as heather heathland is regenerating where trees have been felled. But, if we are felling there without restocking elsewhere overall tree cover is being lost. The Forestry panel argued that we should be expanding treecover in England. So we have conflicting objectives.

          The Forestry Commission manage their forests in accordance with a Forest Design Plan. They therefore know what and when trees have been planted. They are able to model these statistics and project forward their likely harvesting revenue year on year.

          With cyclical harvesting and restocking some years generate more revenue than others. The next 10 to 15 years for example the Forestry Commission will see a drop in revenue caused in part by the the significant one-off loss of trees as a result of the 1987 Hurricane. The devastated areas were cleared and restocked but the new plantings will not be ready to harvest in the immediate future.

          Harvesting revenue is a key component that underpins the economic stability of the Forestry Commission and our Public Forest Estate. Popular that James Bond my be I doubt that sufficient revenue could be sustained in the long term by rental income from our film industry.

          That is why I believe is so important for the Government to come up with the level of funding (£22 million) that the Forestry panel recommended. With the recent Government announcement there is a shortfall in funding from that source; what is even more critical there appear to be no guarantees of funding going forward. With the prospect of having to manage decreasing timber revenue these are critical times for the sustainability of our Public Forests.

          • Mark Osland says:

            This just reinforces my fears of the government looking for private finances to support our woodlands……..most private business would consider 10 years to be a long term investment!!!

        • Yes! Frensham Common, Hankley, the Bourne woods. I moved out of London 8 years ago and have totally fallen in love with this area! So many un made up roads, bridle ways public footpaths, heathland, bluebell woods, ponds and lakes. Apparently Surrey is one of the most wooded Counties in the UK. I went to a talk given by the Frensham Common Ranger recently that the Farnham Association arranged. He was INSPIRING. He would have approved of your brother, thinking cowgirl! Population is a worry now though, MASSIVE amounts of dog walkers, horse riders, swimmers, day trippers, fires started by bar-b-q’s are common and the native species are suffering. I love all animals but so many ground nesting birds get disturbed by the dogs. Alice Holt forest does quite a lot to encourage and educate children to respect trees. I feel very lucky to live in such a beautiful place!

      • Andy Hobbs says:

        Not even crossbills?
        Heathland is never going to fund the forestry commission…..they are getting massive grants from europe to return plantations to lowland heath….for the moment….see what happens when the grant runs out……..they are spending £3 million in the New Forest restoring bogs & meanders in the streams.

        I think anyone who expects to rely on a crop that takes 100 – 200 years to mature is dreaming……….the government have said all along that Forestry must be ‘self funding’…
        they no longer intend to give the FC. £26 mllion per annum…..the FC or ‘New Body’
        must be self funding………the only way to do this is to grow & harvest a crop…….
        would you rather see a crop of connifer or an industrial development……many of the pine plantations were planted in the 1950’s & 60’s to stop industry or towns from expanding & would be classified as ‘Brown Belt’ if they wre not used for forestry.

        • Clive Coles says:

          Agree with you Andy ~ just however a point of clarification.

          The Forestry Commission, as currently constituted, cannot obtain grants to deforest to restore lowland heaths as they are part of Government. It is Natural England (also part of Government) who are responsible for driving the heathland restoration initiative. They allocate the European / HLS funding to Conservation and other Charitable Trusts and private landowners to encourage them to create more heathland. It’s ironic ~ one government agency is being charged to maintain and extend our forests; the other is promoting deforestation to create heathland.

          The Forestry Commission and Natural England will make strange bedfellows should the NE/EA Triennial review come out in favour that solution. I shudder to think of the consequences for our forests and woodlands should that occur.

          • Andy Hobbs says:

            Clive, the funding in the New Forest is given to the ‘verderers’ as part as a ‘higher level scheme’ I think it is then used to fund the commission & contractors to do the work…..with the commission overseeing the work.

        • Mike Boulton says:

          Just shows that you cannot be too dogmatic in these matters.
          Of course for the forests to be self funding doesn’t mean just growing and cropping trees. Many woodland products can come from utilising thinnings and from disversifying forest use. Leisure activities and holidaying could bring cash into the forest.

          I agree though the Governmnt cannot be trusted to care for anything be it woodlands, SSSIs or the NHS. The danger lies in the Friedmanite economics where the only thing that matters is raw profit.

          • Andy Hobbs. says:

            We are talking millions to fund our woodlands……small woodland industries don’t make much……the FC have voluntary pay parking machines in a lot of areas ….they take next to nothing…..people don’t want to pay to use the woodlands…….one chap recently whilst ‘night cycling’ crashed into a piece of metal left in the track & sued for a five figure sum. ( would have paid for a lot of trees.)…..sadly not all forest & woodland users are sympathetic ….My father has just left working in the forest after 40 years as a forest craftsman…says he’s not sorry to go …to many people want to take from the forest ..very few want to give to it.

    • Mike Boulton says:

      Yes, but be careful here grassland is generally wildlife desert due to prolonged use of agri-chemicals. The bio-diversity value of land needs to be assesed on a case to case basis. It is frequently the case that land classified as brownfield has greater bio-diversity value than grassland.

      It also depends what species you wish to conserve. Red squirrels need conifers.

  6. Joseph.James Marshall says:

    Interview with the Minister for Deforestation
    Q: Good morning, Minister. May I ask what you’re proposing to do with that axe?
    MfD: Axe? What axe?
    Q: The brand new one with the gleaming silver blade you’re holding in your hands right now.
    MfD: Oh, this axe. It’s not mine. A lobbyist lent it to me.
    Q: I see. So you wouldn’t happen to know anything about the trail of chopped-down trees leading from your constituency home all the way to this studio?
    MfD: Coincidence is a wonderful thing, John.
    Q: But I feel I must press you on this point, Minister.
    MfD: Press what you like, John.
    Q: But what about the commitment to the welfare of our woods you made in the House of Commons?
    MfD: Come on, John. I didn’t make it on television, did I?
    Q: But for God’s sake, man . . . I mean, Minister, you made the commitment only last Tuesday!
    MfD: As long ago as that? You of all people should know that the news-cycle has moved on, John.
    Q: Minister, some of our listeners will be incandescent with rage.
    MfD: Tell them to flame on, John. I’m a busy man. I’ve got whole English counties to devastate.
    Q: Minister, what are you doing? For God’s sake, stop waving that axe around in here! [Horrible gurgling noise.]
    MfD: Oops, sorry, John. My mistake. For a moment there, I thought you were a tree.

  7. Ann Tomlin says:

    Sobering thought indeed Mark. Or that people with the right cash and contacts will buy up woodland – ancient or public – and then ‘manage’ it so that the general public have to be kept out

  8. Barry Massey says:

    The Real (Hidden) Risk – Please read this!
    This is what my MP Ben Gummer says in his answer : ” … the way that the Estate is cared for and managed should evolve to meet the challenges ahead of us. We need a NEW MODEL that is able to draw in private finance, make the best use of Government funding and a means to facilitate WIDER AND MORE COMPREHENSIVE community support.

    That is the Trojan Horse, which you guys haven’t seen, and that is the way they will do just what they want – Just like the NHS.

    So stop crowing – you haven’t won by a long way. You will have to fight to keep the Developers out on a local basis.

    • Mark Osland says:

      Sobering thoughts Barry……private finance worries me!!!! Does that mean a developer will incorporate an ancient woodland into a new estate??? I dread to think what the outcome will be…..

      • Kaye Brennan says:

        We see so many developers trying to replace ancient woodland with a new estate, Mark! And often it’s included when at the edge of a development area as the ‘green space’ for the development, along with pathways… or developers trying to mitigate the loss by offering to plant new woodland.

        • Mike Boulton says:

          I was reading a while back about woodland planted to provide oad for the Royal Navy. It was an extension of an existing ancient wood.
          To this day naturalists can clearly see the dividing line between the old and new wood as the Fauna still has not equalised in the two areas. So much for mitigation

        • Mark Osland says:

          Isn’t it strange how climate change seems to get the blame for everything when in reality, the real threat is human greed……

    • Joseph.James Marshall says:

      Just to reinforce the signifance of what Barry Massy has reported here, please look at the order of priorities in the opening paragraph of the Government Forestry Policy Statement (January 2013). The following sentence is quoted word-for-word from the Ministerial Foreword to the Statement: “Over the past six months we have listened to businesses, interest groups and the public about what we can do, as a nation, to value our woodlands more.”

      • Joseph.James Marshall says:

        Correction: “what Barry Massey has reported” – apologies for the misspelt surname above!

  9. Laurence Griffin says:

    I am hopeful that we will keep many of our woodlands, but wary of a government that has made so many u-turns in their policies. Lets keep vigilent!.

  10. Roger Hewitt says:

    Is this leading towards the same model that created the Canal and Rivers Trust from British Waterways – if so, we need to be very careful

  11. Mark Osland says:

    I think most of the problems are caused by the culture of “always wanting more”, when will we accept and enjoy what we have?

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  13. Mark Gough says:

    The government may well be responding to the huge lesson they learnt when trying to sell off the publicly owned woods; namely that the public cares deeply about its woodland. This could just be a PR exercise to show MPs ‘care’ and listen to the voters. Politics is way too short-termist to understand that certain environmental issues or policies may take beyond their lifetime to achieve results, let alone within their political careers. The Woodland Trust and its supporters must remain vigilant and keep pushing certain core points. Namely that ancient woodland should be accorded similar protection that listed buildings enjoy; woodland is a carbon sink that operates all by itself powered only by natural processes; and that cities need trees too. I live in Hull and it is one of the least wooded cities in the country and the East Riding of Yorkshire one of the least wooded counties and it need not be. Keep plugging away Woodland Trust and I think it is important for the trust to be involved in these discussions to steer the politicians in the right direction.

  14. David Holloway says:

    I’ve been tempted back into this fray again as the mistrust of government, well this government at least, is obvious. In entering this kind of blog (I’m assuming that’s what it is) one can get side-tracked by the latest spin so I urge you all to re-read the comment timed at 9.19am this morning. Great piece by Clive Coles.

  15. mark hanson says:

    Hello,why not invest the millions in exsisting rolling track and stock and give every one a seat they pay for! The line route apparently cannot be changed so if the government are telling the truth about their new found love of woodland build tunnels under our irreplaceable woodland.Thats the line dare i say it i wish our head-honcho,s will take?Infact tunnel the whole route in a responsible and green manner now there,s a challange Mr Cameron!

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      And what a challenge Mark! Like the way you’re thinking though :)

      • Mike Boulton says:

        The previous Tory government sold off the railways. Why should they invest in them when they have some one else to blame?

        If they pass plans for HS2 it won’t be a new railway for us it will be built privately for profit. We aare just the mugs who will be giving them the profit. That is our role in the tory dream.

  16. Colin Knapman says:

    As previous contributors have stressed, I don’t believe we can trust this Government (or any other, for that matter) to take a long term, strategic, view of Forestry issues. They are all focused on what they can achieve within a single Parliament, ie 5 year maximum. This often leads to the kind of half-baked proposals we witnessed from the previous Secretary of State. So we all must continue to be vigilant, as it’s a racing certainty that some other Ministerial numpty will come up with “this week’s good idea” regarding the future of our beautiful countryside.

  17. lynn68b says:

    I am not convinced the government are committed to protecting wildlife with decisions like HS2 going through. Also worried about the the cuts to the forestry budget and FC staffing levels. The new independent body to be created to oversee forestry should have a no.1 priority of making sure the FC who look after most of our woodland are adequately funded, otherwise management will not be effective and the Tories will have an excuse to propose sell offs again.

  18. I’ve just thought of something positive about HS2 – its not a 4 lane in each direction motorway…let us be thankful for small mercies whilst we continue to campaign for our trees and woodlands as without the oxygen they give out we wont have a voice as we’ll be dead from carbon dioxide overdose…

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Road applications bring so many of our woods under threat cases – and yet HS2 dosn’t achieve all that it could and even promises huge damage to ancient woodland :(

  19. Kath McDermott says:

    Never trust politicians, they cannot think beyond the next election and if they will keep their seat. Unfortunately for the majority of people in this country this depends upon their financial wellbeing not the environment. We must convince more people that the environment is of paramount importance, only if the majority of their constituents are against development in our countryside will the politicians listen.

    • Joseph James Marshall says:

      Yes, politicians will change course pretty sharply when enough of their constituents tell them a particular policy is a vote loser. In the meantime, too many of those politicans will bow down to the big corporations and their lobbyists. The threat to our environment won’t be removed until we curb the excessive influence wielded by commercial interests. I suspect that some profit-making organisations would buy and sell anything in order to turn a quick buck. I dare say they’d quite happily buy a few politicians.

  20. Ann Tomlin says:

    I agree with all this. We cannot trust the government to keep their word and big business, operating in the UK from global sources, will always have their way. We have to keep the pressure on. It is a small island Abigail and if we are not prudent we will use all our resources, especially water. However, if we do not have any trees to keep the atmosphere as we need it the population will be very small indeed

  21. The powers that be are ALWAYS changing the goal posts for their own profit and convenience. Green belt, woodland and areas of outstanding natural beauty will be continually under threat because of massive population explosion and housing shortages. We are fighting change of use for our local forestry commission owned woodland. Once you degrade land and take away wildlife protection the developers can move in. Long term we HAVE to confront the uncomfortable problem of over population. THIS IS A SMALL ISLAND!!

    • mark hanson says:

      Hello abigail,yes overpopulation is the cause of many if you talk of green issues.As i see it people who can afford a new house and live and work in whichever city no longer want the dangers and associated problems that this brings and would rather commute from and live in a green and safe environment preferably within a reasonable distance from the place of work.This gives the powers that be a mandate for distruction and greed.I must point out that a property generates tax revenue for its entire life which suits all governments.Trees to these sort are an isaw sad!If you have a petition i will sign it but i beleive more exposure from the trust and the petition they run may help.Cheers Mark..

  22. Peter Kyte says:

    We need to make sure that any development effecting forest or greenbelt has at its focus sustainable development and environmental mitigation, rather than economic development as its mantra.

    • mark hanson says:

      Hello Peter,just afew points of observation.Firstly i have had plenty of experience with local council and government in regard to development issues in the past.My conclusions are that they from whatever party are incompetant untill the pound signs appear before their eyes!Enough said, my first point on the HS2 rail,this white elephant will cost in excess of ?millions of tax payers money so i,m lead to believe the overall cost will be more than what it costs to build a new nuclear power station! Am i pro nulear no i,m not.Who when the developers break the rules in regard to our trees hold them to book?This particular government intends to build itself out of recession mainly with new housing no suprise then that they are holding back on development and where the blame lies when the rules are broken!My experience is that trying to get all opposition groups to alli with each other strength in numbers if you like.Thanks Mark.

      • Mike Boulton says:

        I think you mean (american)billions. Millions won’t go far on HS2.
        By the way have you noticed that work on the new nuclear plant is progressing a-pace, you would think they had planning permission. Alternatively you might think tha the government had yet to make a decision.
        How long before preparatory work on HS2 starts?.

  23. Clive Coles says:

    I agree with so much that is being written but think there is a need to challenge some of the comments on this blog.

    I agree Catherine “why on earth did the Government want to get rid of the Forestry Commission”. Just 2 years ago some of us will remember the Woodland Trust were positioning themselves behind the Government’s plans to dispose of the Public Forest Estate (PFE) , either by sale or lease to private or charitable organisations. They sensed a chance to acquire woodlands and gain influence. Woodland Trust only came out against the sell off plans once the Forest campaigns had mobilised public suport. I am glad they did.~ the support was welcome.

    But by then the Government strategy was clear ~ they were looking for ways of distancing themselves from the day to day responsibilities of running the PFE. The Forestry Panel recommendations have advocated a different way of achieving that aim ~ by suggesting a Public body; either a NDPB ( i.e Quango ) or a Public Trust, the new organisations could be run with less Government financial support and Ministry involvement. The next few months are therefore critical ~ we need to remain engaged to ensure that the new organisations, what ever they turn out to be, are adequately funded.

    The Woodland Trust has it’s roots firmly planted ( excuse the pun) in the protection of ancient woodland and other broadleaf woodlands. I can understand this position ~ such areas are a national treasure.

    But we do need coniferous plantation forests as well ~ with professional management these too can become a bio-diverse habitat ~ a haven for wildlife. And of course there are a public recreational amenity. We do however need to accept that plantation forests are effectively a “long term” crop. These trees are grown to be harvested. The Forestry Commission do manage a commercial business ~ timber sales produce revenue which keep the enterprise on track to being financially stable. The Commission endevour to retain the overall tree cover by cyclical replanting. They manage their forests in accordnce with a Forest Design Plan Over time therefore the landscape changes ~ trees are felled ~ trees are planted.

    I know the Wooodland Trust were pressing the Government to adopt the Forestry panel’s recommendations ” in full”. I was always uneasy with that position as it gave support to the idea that the Forestry Commission can be split up across differient organisational structures. The way ahead theferore is full of pitfalls ~ there are risks with this stragey. We must not allow the forest/woodland focus to be lost or diluted by being subsumed into a structure with a wider remit.

    I have concerns as to what might come from the triennial review of the Environment Agency and Natural England. The public consultation on this review has just ended. i assume the Woodland Trust would have responded. I wonder ….where did the Woodland Trust stand on this matter ~ are they still in favour of fragmentation of the Forestry Commision as advocated by the Forestry Panel ? Would they support a partial merger of the Forestry Commission, Natural England and the Environment Agency as is already happening in Wales? i personally hope not.

    • Andy Hobbs says:

      Well said Clive! We must watch them like hawks……which ever way the government choose to ‘bodge together’ a new way of managing our forests,…they will be looking for the ‘cheapest option’.
      We must also realize that the ideal of having all broadleaf woodlands is foolhardy.
      The conifer plantations that many hate, are fast becoming very proffitable commodities ….in fact they may well be the best way to fund the rest of our woodlands.
      The governments over the past 20 years have tried to get out of funding the forests by many ways……keep a watchful eye & read mostly between the lines!

    • Mark Osland says:

      I just wanted to say, what a very good response this is…..you raise some very interesting points. I suppose the only constant we can be sure of is that most politicians are more concerned with their own development than anything else…….

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Clive, thanks for this further comment and others. Our response to the Triennial Review went in on time and I won’t steal Hilary’s thunder by talking about it here; watch out for our upcoming blog on this but it’s safe to say we are not at all happy, as you might have seen in her last post. I must just pick up on two points you have also made, and bust a couple of myths while I’m at it. As a quick FYI this has been covered in various places over the years, so forgive for repeating myself but it feels important to try and put all this to bed

      You say: Just 2 years ago some of us will remember the Woodland Trust were positioning themselves behind the Government’s plans to dispose of the Public Forest Estate (PFE) , either by sale or lease to private or charitable organisations.
      The Trust was never behind the Government’s plans for wholesale disposal. We were always against this both on the grounds of principle and practicality and made this clear from the very start because there were no guarantees about what might happen to those woods – with our particular worry focusing (as per our charitable remit) on ancient woods.

      We have seen plans to sell off public forests like these come and go over the years and hotly contested them. Ultimately, the Government’s plans highlighted our key underlying issue: no matter who owns them the habitats, access and hidden potential of the woodlands of England were and are at risk

      We did think it unlikely that the government would back down this time, so looked at getting the best commitments to the Estate, especially the vulnerable PAWS. We were wrong footed, and we always have and will recognise and respect that there were lots of voices shouting for our forests

      I’m glad you welcomed our involvement; we welcomed everyone else’s too. As some campaign positions were able to take on the different remits that our charity does not reach, we supported all of these petitions in principle, demonstrating this by sharing them with our supporters throughout.

      And: They sensed a chance to acquire woodlands and gain influence.
      We were never acquisitive of the PFE – we have said this clearly many times and Our Forests FOI response from Defra shows that of all the NGOs at the table during this time, the Woodland Trust’s response was negative to acquisition.

      We did use our influence to lobby Jim Paice MP to drop the 15% sales under the 2011/12 allowance that would still otherwise have carried on, even while the PFE future was under public consultation.

      What our campaign is still not about is for the government to keep the PFE as it currently stands. Sales of sites on the public estate happened (until now) every year. New sites are also purchased. We do not object in principle to the sale of some sites on the PFE which don’t provide clear public benefits, as long as the capital from the sale of public forests is reinvested in the PFE so that more people can benefit from it (this wasn’t the case at the time).

      • Clive Coles says:

        Thanks Kaye for that clarification. Each organisation, together with individuals such as myself, have to take a position at the time and do what they believe best for those who they seek to represent. A lot has changed over the last two years ~ we are now facing a new challenge as there is still much detail to be resolved. Look forward to hearing what Hilary has to say about the Triennial Review

  24. Mari Shackell says:

    We are blessed to live in a land where woods naturally grow in beauty and abundance – this is our birthright and our heritage. Our woodlands contribute deeply to our quality of life and our wellbeing. They provide us with the opportunity to wander joyfully, to breathe fresh air, to learn about the living world and its bounty. They inspire us, they energise us, they cheer us, they teach us. All this they do for free, as no man-made structures ever could. We must cherish them, protect them and never lose them.

  25. Andy Hobbs says:

    The FC owns a lot of property, mainly in the Forest of Dean & the New Forest.
    What will happen to this?
    Most of their cottages are tennanted by the Forest workers…….some have old stipulations that they must be occupied by a woodman or knocked down & returned to the forest. Some could be sold though.
    Many of the woodmen that occupy the cottages Also ‘Common’…….they are the ones that keep the sheep in the Dean & the ponies, cattle & pigs in the New Forest………this way of life is important to the ecology of these areas……if the Comoners way of life & animals are lost, these important habitats will change.

    I’m sure the FC will ask questions about this…….but extra pressure from other bodies could help to safeguard this traditional management of the forests.

  26. Catherine says:

    Why on earth did the government get rid of the Forestry Commission, which was doing a valuable job. Now we have lost their expertise. When are these people going to understand the need for forests by the world’s population. If it had not been for trees we wouldn’t have been able to live on this planet in the first place. The whole world’s eco system is being ruined by the constant felling in the various countries. Stop giving in to ‘developers’.

  27. I’m reading as much as I can around the law regarding SSSIs and rail/road proposals such as HS2 and the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road. Can the government revoke the protection of SSSIs?
    I hear that contractors fell trees and clear hedgerows allegedly without license.
    Wildlife habitat loss is heartbreaking. How can we forget that we ARE nature!

  28. Peter Farrell says:

    Many thanks to Nikki for all the hard work she has put in throughout this campaign her efforts have been outstanding. Alas as many of us can see now that the Government will be signing of certain Woodlands for the High Speed Train Service Route. This will save half an hour here and there for some people. However the loss of the Woodlands is forever unless they replace like for like. I am very pleased to see so many people up in arms against the Government on this issue, please keep fighting for our precious Woodlands.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Nikki would blush at such praise Peter :) – the backing our forests have had from hundreds of thousands of people like you, plus the weight of organisations like the Trust and so many others has proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Threats to our woods feel relentless right now but (accepting the serious issues remaining) together we’re making some headway at last

  29. Jeff says:

    Sorry people but do not expect this Government to put anything behind any of their “appease the people pledges” – if there’s no profit in it for someone somewhere (and who knows who in the Government has shares in some part of this project!) they will rename without shame.
    If they are prepared to wipe out the Badger population of the UK despite the facts showing that a cull would be ineffective then do not expect any sympathy for our Woodlands.
    The power of your vote is your only strength…….use it and let them know you are going to!!

  30. Mike Dziubinski says:

    This issue is more critical than the Euro vote. We should demand a referendum on HS2

  31. Patricia Holden says:

    Woodland Trust don’t trust them. Keep on keeping on. HS2 will be a disaster . Little by little
    our woodlands will be destroyed (with ever such a good reason on each occasion). If they can –
    they will. I am very cynical about those in power, solely based on their past behaviour.

    • Andy Hobbs says:

      >>our woodlands will be destroyed (with ever such a good reason on each occasion).<<

      With no 'good' in it & no 'reasoning' involved ……it does sound like a Government decision !!

  32. Ian C says:

    obviously the british government wants to get rid of woodland, farmland etc and and sell it off to build more houses, industrial units and even more importantly supermarkets and fast food outlets. those who’ll benefit – bankers, supermarket and rip-off fastfood hierarchial management plus a certain sector of our community where in time they’ll have our government in their pockets, if they haven’t done it already!!

  33. Keith Yardley says:

    Hello,
    I’ve watched the government spokesperson on TV and their strategy is quite hidden. He was saying that a new structure will enable greater public participation and involvement if it leaves government hands. And they’ll provide it with funding for up to two years. On radio 4 this morning the Minister admitted that the Forestry Commision had not done a bad job and the people will “likely migrate to the new structure…” This means the new structure is the significantly important piece.

    How does this sound…
    We the government want to offload woodland costs to anyone else. We don’t have a problem with woodlands, they’re very nice, but can be expensive to manage. So we’ll go through the consultation process so we can’t be accused of ignoring people again. But we won’t ask anyone the question “is a Trust the right thing for woodlands?”. We’ll present it as a given. So after the consultaion process one way or another we’ll offload it to a trust and it’s no longer our (government) responsibility. And anyway, we will have moved on by then and it’s someone elses problem.

    When, after a year or two the new trust fails to find sufficient funding the trust managers will take it as a personal criticism of their management skills if they can’t find adequate funding (it shouldn’t be personal as they are being set up to fail). As such they will want to quietly find new buyers for discrete woodlands out of the public gaze. If a public outcry ensues the government of the day will blame the trust managers. Even if they’re sympathetic the trust will not be one of their responsibilities and so cannot be included in the budget. It will take its chance with other external pleas for funding. So the action to take now is to reveal their strategy and to STOP the trust being formed.
    All the best,

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Keith – that’s an excellent question! Hello and thanks for posing it

    • Andy Hobbs says:

      Keith, this is what foresry workers have been trying to get across for a few years….they’ve ( Governments) have run down the amount of Forest workers by squeezing the FC’s budget for the last 20 years, now, there are 20% cuts annualy until 2018 (I think that date is correct).
      We think that they are hoping the forests become so run down & in such a mess that the only option would be to sell them off to the private sector companies that could manage them economically …….with the massive tax concessions & grants available to do this (from the government), & timber prices going through the roof, for fuel wood………..what a hobby for a retired banker!..

    • Joseph James Marshall says:

      Your assessment of the situation sounds worryingly accurate. What have we come to when the people who are supposed to represent us say one thing to our faces and try to do the opposite by devious means?

  34. Teri Browett says:

    Thank you for keeping us up to date. I cried when I read that sanity had prevailed and ancient woodland is to be protected. Then you burst my bubble re the planning laws. The battle is not yet over HS2 has also got to be stopped. Keep up the fight.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Sorry Teri! Hate to burst bubbles :( But let’s stay positive – HS2 is a particular kind of battle but we’re one positive result in… If Government is serious about fostering new woodland culture, safeguarding our ancient woodland heritage needs to be at the heart of planning along with so much more.

      • Mike Boulton says:

        This sows the value of broad based campaigning. Issues are connected. In the case of HS2 we should also be campaigning for upgrading of the mainline rail in preference to HS2. This will benefit more people and businesses and preserve ancient woodland.

  35. Joseph James Marshall says:

    My comment here has been re-posted as a reply to John Craddock (February 5, 2013 at 18:44), which is where I meant to put it.

  36. Enid says:

    I understand that trees take in the carbon dioxide that we breathe out and as a big thank-you from the trees to us they give us oxygen. We’re told that global warming is caused by too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere causing a greenhouse effect, now that leaves me puzzled, why would any sane , caring, right thinking person want to destroy beautiful trees for the sake of greedy development?. We in Britain are said to be tolerant and there is nothing more tolerant than the trees, they take decades to grow and put up with all kinds of weather. In that view I believe that trees are more to be admired than wastefully chopped down.

  37. It is good that The Government has decided to heed public opinion over the sale of The Nation’s forests but such a shame they and the previous Government failed to act to at least try to safegard our ash trees. Nothing was done until far too late, they may wriggle and squirm and say that the disease would have come on windblown spores across the North Sea. The fact is though that it was first found on imported seedlings from The Continent. This is when they knew that the disease has been spreading from Poland for the last 20 years and nothing was done until far too late to protect our ash trees. Didn’t they remember, or care about the history of Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970’s – not really that long ago.

    As a forcibily retired market gardener I am disgusted that we sent seed off to Europe, then let them grow the plants, infect it with a fatal ( for our trees) disease and send them back. I was “forcibly” retired due to the fact that my produce failed to make enough money to break even any more ( after 35 years experience, I wasn’t a novice grower). Why are trees not sourced locally? the entire issue is a disgrace.

    • Joseph James Marshall says:

      If only people with experience of collapsing entire economies could be forcibly retired! It’s very sad when people who’ve done something valuable with their lives are unable to continue practising their livelihoods. I was very interested in what you wrote about our ash trees. Your question about local sourcing may soon need to be asked by many more of us.
      [My apologies – I originally posted this comment in the wrong place. It appears again (by mistake) as a ‘stand-alone’ comment below.]

  38. Alan Gee says:

    I just can’t believe we effectively helped to save the woodland and forests only for the Government to then cut through them with a railway line to help someone save a few minutes on a train journey. In some parts there are embankments raised over 13 metres just to the line then you have the electric pylons on top of that – and thats cutting through woodland! Its not even though there is any economic benefit thats been proved. In Staffordshire it will actually take longer – it only takes 1hr 17 mins to London now from Stafford and this is north of the Midlands! I heard today even by their own admission that HS2 will not bring about any benefit, its just scandalous. There are still people who think HS2 will be good for Britain, they must be seriously ignorant of the facts and hoodwinked by those who want to build a nice big brash railway, for themselves. Please woodland trust help to do something about this!

  39. Andy Hobbs says:

    I don’t know if anyone realises …..that due to the Government cuts, the Forestry Commission has lost many of it’s Woodland Forest Craftsmen.
    These are the poeple who hold the old skills & knowledge of managing our woodlands.
    The F.C seems to have geared the cuts to retaining the staff in advisory roles eg. Grants, tree health & Woodland Planning.
    If you remember, the Government were going to retain this arm of the FC if they sold off OUR woodlands.
    With the budget cuts & many of the Forest workers gone…many places are already begining to show a lack of up keep.
    With more cuts to come, will the Forests be Properly maintained….& will the skills be there to do this if the future?…..woodland / forest crafts cannot be learned in a few years! It’s something that takes a lifetime to learn…..even if there are skilled people to teach left to teach these trades.

    We may have retained the woodlands……but I feel we have lost many of their creators & fear for their future.

    • Joseph James Marshall says:

      No, Mr Hobbs, I didn’t know that the Forestry Commission had lost many of it’s Woodland Forest Craftsmen. There may be others who also weren’t aware of this. I’m grateful for your helpful and informative post. As you rightly point out, “woodland / forest crafts cannot be learned in a few years!” I think this is worth repeating.

    • Danny says:

      Could not agree more, I walk my dogs in a FC site near Plymouth and have seen an appalling change in the last year. The original “ranger” is now only an adviser and a third party company is managing the site.

      Due to the disease prevention and other casualties from high winds there are now areas that you would be astonished to be told are still woodland as their are no trees, huge areas that have been bulldozed.

      In addition there is now a tendency around Plymouth to defer to the fashionable cyclist which means that where downhill off road cycling was confined to an insignificant coniferous area away from popular public paths, the cyclist seem to be getting free reign to go anywhere, eroding path, breaking branches and even uprooting trees to make new paths. It is quite distressing to see the damage

      • Andy Hobbs says:

        Sadly Danny, the west country has lost a huge amount of trees due to Phytophthora ramorum. It mainly affects Larch, but has just been found on Sitka Spruce in Ireland.
        I’m not sure of the Restock time-scale but I would think that these areas will be replanted with a suitable species when the conditions permit.

        The problem with ‘out of control cyclists’ seems to be a growing problem! Most respect the allocated routes, but sadly a minority seem to have little respect for the flora & fauna & choose to do what they please.
        Even on national TV….. Countryfile, some were shown holding an ‘organised event’….riding across New Forest heathland….a SSSI & RAMSAR site!

        Lets hope whoever has to run our forests get sufficient funds & backup to do the job properly.
        The FC have had virtually a ‘frozen budget’ since the 1980’s despite ‘sell offs’ by various governments.
        Very few staff have been taken on to continue the forest crafts in this time…..I wonder just how long the ‘sell offs’ have been in the pipeline.
        It’s sad to see the places going downhill & skilled workers taking ‘voluntary’ redundancy with little hope of re-employment in these rural areas.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      I’ve heard the same thing in Nottinghamshire, Andy

  40. Joseph James Marshall says:

    I am both appalled and encouraged by the comments posted above: appalled at the stories of follies committed and future follies planned, but encouraged by the passion of the correspondents. Sue Holden writes: “Many initiatives are deferred for future consideration or discussion.” We all know what this is likely to mean in practice. Clive Coles and David Holloway have made excellent comments about how much money the politicians will put where their mendacious mouths are. The usual double-talk and re-hashing of old announcements! Sue Holden closes her article with an exhortation to hold the government to account. She is too polite to say they will wriggle like greased eels to escape as many commitments as they can. The Final Report has confirmed that a new body should hold the Public Forest Estate “in trust for the nation”. This is most welcome. The politicians must do their jobs as our elected representatives and act as stewards of that trust. They may need a regular kicking as a salutary reminder.

  41. I personally think that we all need to keep up the pressure on all relevant government departments and ministers to stress the importance of trees within the natural and man-made environments. We should be planting millions more trees (not needless cutting them down). I also think education plays a major role here, in educating the present generation about the role of trees throughout history, the ecological importance of all trees and what is lost when vast swathes of forests are chopped down due to human greed (and not always need). Trees need a voice, it’s good to see that many fellow human beings care about them and their future.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      It’s true what Nikki said in her email earlier, Trevor, when our forests need a voice we know where to come!

      • Terry Kirkup says:

        You are SO right about Education Trevor. However, who is the enemy here – none other than our well-heeled and thus extremely well educated Government Ministers. They don’t make much ecological use of their own educations,do they? Or was every school lesson they had based strictly on finance? After all, they are the ones best equipped to escape this island when the fan gets sprayed.

  42. Mark Challacombe says:

    It is indeed good news that people are begining to realise how important our woods/forests are to us all and to all the animals/Fauna that need these to survive in England, and I am also sure you will try to protect our trees/forests in Wales as well, please don’t forget that many people who are supporting this cause are from other parts of the UK.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Thanks Mark and welcome! Yes, this issue relates to England and stems from plans to sell the public forest estate in England en masse, revealed by the Coalition – and halted by the public – in 2011. There are no plans for public forest estates to be sold off in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, where forestry is devolved. However the outcomes of the Forests Report may impact on wider forestry issues, so in that sense I feel this is very relevant to the rest of the UK, too.
      The Trust works across the UK, and we fight just as hard to protect, expand and restore Wales’ precious woodland as we do in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland – most recently your vulnerable ancient trees as you might have seen in Angharad’s post: http://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/2012/12/01/5320-reasons-to-protect-wales-ancient-and-heritage-trees/ – like anything we can’t do it without you :)

  43. June Mccarthy says:

    I read recently that the bird populations in Britain have reduced by 44 million since the 1960s- I am no expert, but I know why.

    Pollution and climate change are two contributory factors , but loss of habitat is the major reason, we are very destructive when we develop or build.

    I have seen many mature trees felled in Shropshire and whole sections of well established ecosystems ripped up all at once with no thought for the creatures whose food and habitat this was, no consideration of the value of these repositories of eggs and larvae and seeds.

    People and authorities who should know better, my Council, conduct such large scale destruction and then point to a few saplings they have planted as “a benefit to the environment!”, as if these few saplings can compensate and accommodate the wildlife.

    If it wasn’t so dire, I would laugh!

    We will continue to lose all kinds of species unless we stop lip service to conservation by local Councils and Planning Authorites. I have seen planning applications passed where the developer promised all sorts of plantings and landscping and then just didn’t carry them out.

  44. Terry Knight says:

    Celebration is premature, and, sorry to say, a little bit naive. These are the same people who promised the NHS was ‘safe in our hands.’ They are dying to get the same avaricious mitts on the woodlands, I mean, just imagine the money there is to be made from another resource simply going to waste

  45. Ulla says:

    Trees suck up the water and keep the earth on the ground (ie not swept away in floods). This recent massive raining has swept away quite a lot of earth but not where there are trees or bushes.

  46. Caspar says:

    I applaud the vital work the Woodland Trust is doing – or trying to do – but I’m disappointed by the tone of this piece. The writer clearly trusts the government’s word, which is an elementary error. You simply cannot go into a room with representatives of this government and thrash out a mutually agreeable deal. They will never do anything that’s in anyone else’s interests but their own unless the repercussions of not doing so are too awful for them to tolerate. The way things stand, they probably regard the WT as a useful adjunct of their own PR campaign. There’s little anyone can do to stop the swine, but you could at least try shaming them by aggressively undermining their every specious argument for HS2 and the concomitant destruction of forest and wildlife.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Indeed Caspar, although it’s early days yet – and there’s still plenty to challenge and to get clarified; sometimes criticism can achieve more when it’s constructive. But as a sector, and a group of people (that’s all of us plus everyone else :)), which has spent years now campaiging together we must recognise progress. As Sue says we – and we won’t be alone – will be watching carefully, holding to account, lobbying for more and supporting the actual delivery of what’s been promised. The big issue in much of this is what you’ve hit on – cross-departmental buy in, right through Government.

  47. David Holloway says:

    As events surrounding the proposed disposal of the forest estate unfolded and the current government got a bloody nose we no doubt breathed a sigh of relief when the Independent Panel revealed their findings. Now we have the government’s musings on the panel’s report and in true political style, not wishing to go down the bloody nose route again, it largely supports the Panel’s recommendations. Ah yes, but as previous correspondents have pointed out they are not putting their money where their mouth is. To be fair the nation faces a considerable number of challenges but it seems to me an extremely sad day when we, who have inherited and benefited from an accessible great outdoors, cannot hold up our heads and say we have passed this on, or indeed enhanced this legacy. Some things are vital, others are transient but seem important at the time, eg. HS2 rail link as has been mentioned. Personally I’m sceptical of a fragmented forest estate with local government, local community, local trusts running the show. Local engagement perhaps but I’d prefer to see the Forestry Commission holding the reigns, albeit in a more independent role. The government’s last spending review (SR10) saw a one in four job loss to the Forestry Commission and the recent Ash die-back outbreak highlighted how this agency is stretched, so if the Forestry Commission is to remain effective it too needs public support. In the meantime I echo the cry to ‘stay vigilant’.

    • Clive Coles says:

      I am very much agree with you David. I am much happier to see Public amenity land being managed by the Forestry Commission than by Local Authorities or a multitude of charitable trusts with generally very narrow agendas. I do not support moves to fragment responsibilities for running our Public Forests and Woodlands.

      Local Government is also being squeezed for funding ~ in Suffolk, the County Council is now trying to off-load the Country Parks They are looking to Town Councils and the Wildlife Trust to take them over. These organisations are often themselves seeking Government grants ( e.g the HLS scheme) to enable them to be financially stable. We are restricting the Forest Commission of finance whilst allowing grant funding to flow to the private and charitable sector. Frankly we are now talking politics, not sustainable land management.

      What a daft situation we have found ourselves in. The Government will not provide the £22 million as recommended by the Forestry Panel as being necessary for the running of the entire Public Forest Estate in England. This is a “peanut ” amount compared with other Government commitments.

      The Government response to the Panel’s report was expertly drafted ~ It conveved an impression that they had listened and responded. But they have come up short ~ without adequate funding the Forestry Commission ( or the successor organisation ) is being set up to fail. I am afraid we still have a batle on our hands.

      • Diana Donald says:

        When one considers that just last weekend Cameron gave £150million to Syria and Mali, one wonders who these people are working for. It certainly is not our country. £22million is peanuts in comparison to keep what’s left.

        • Mike Boulton says:

          Just google Mali and look at their mineral reserves.

          Who are they working for – read shock doctrine by Naomi Klein.

      • Kaye Brennan says:

        An excellent point Clive and David, to keep a close eye on your local councils and make sure they truly understand the benefits and values your woods hold – we need to look close to home as well as nationally when it comes to protecting our woodland

        • Mike Boulton says:

          What I have posted about govenment applies to local government.Our lot don’t read their planning papers, Nor do they check the applications against the local plan. the latest is that they havn’t prodiced a new core strategy so the local plan has expired and there is now nothing to prevent developers putting any plan in and having it passed. without the CS they can sue for dammages even for the most appalling plan.

          Many other councils have put themselves in the same position. Check yours.

  48. wiles says:

    they cannot get the railways to work now we cannot afford to travel by train anyway the people who travel business class no doubt pas the cost onto the passenger we must keep up the pressure against a line no one wants they art inventing a case for it again its not their land its everybody’s the dark satanic mills have nothing on these guys I would not trust any government minister at all

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Wiles, thanks for your comment – there are many local groups forming and gathering strength along both phases of the HS2 route, you may find one near to you and if not keep an eye on our Victoria’s posts here for the latest news and how you can get involved

  49. Lesley Sanderson says:

    Hi all countyside protectors….What can i say…well i`ve just found out from my pen pal from Leeds…
    That the Government is going to put this stupid so called fast train through a winery and 2 nature
    trusts in his local area and also his office building too….when he told me i felt soooo sick to the bottom of my stomach….We don`t need this train we have one already that goes from London too
    Leeds….so lets emprove the old line…We can`t let this go on…..

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      We are still waiting for GSI details to absolutely sure about the impact, Lesley but so far the Y-route is not looking good for many habitats (including the humble office)

    • Mike Boulton says:

      Hi The problem with improving the old line is that the Government sold it. It is now private property do only the owner, Network Rail is in a position to improve it..
      I would oppose spending public money on this but there is a way round it. A govenment with the will to support the British public could invest in it by putting money in in exchange for shares at market value.
      In fact I believe that public money should NEVER be given to companies. Teh government should always get shares on exchange.
      Think on it.

  50. John Stevens says:

    It is the feeble target for national forest cover that concerns me. In an overcrowded island there are bound to be continued losses of trees, but perhaps we should focus on getting a really substantial net increase as well as on conserving the best of what we already have?

  51. MG says:

    Sould the government be reminded of this document: http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm80/8082/8082.pdf
    (The Natural Choice, Environmental White Paper) and
    Sir John Lawton’s ‘Making Space for Nature’

    http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/biodiversity/documents/201009space-for-nature.pdf

    to help inform their planning for our natural environment…

  52. Tony Cassidy says:

    I do not trust the polititions of this country with the welfare of our countrysideAfter all they all support the ridiculous HS 2 scheme which we cannot afford and will wreck England’s woodlands and landscape forever.

  53. Malcolm Walsh says:

    Though this report enables us to emit a sigh of relief, as other respondents have commented, I would not trust this government on anything. So, please keep up your good work to preserve our national heritage.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      So long as you’re with us Malcolm, and everyone! To paraphrase slightly, We’re all in this together… :) And thanks for your comment

    • Mike Boulton says:

      I would not trust ANY government. Nowadays we have career politicians who are all as bad as each other. They are currupt and shameless. I would urge everyone to rethink their votoing strategy. Forget Party, they join the party that gives them the best chance of being elected. Choose the candidate with at least 20 years real work experience, preferably from a minor party or independent.

      Go the the hustings meetings they will be posted in the local press. As questions.

      Forget who wil become PM it makes no difference.

      • Gillespie Robertson says:

        I absolutely agree with this. Party politics stink, and ensure that only the power-hungry get to the positions of influence. Always support independents who are willing to think for themselves, and yes indeed, go for people with some experience of real life outside politics.

  54. Aussie Ed says:

    Much more recognition at local council level is needed to protect woodland. Here in Bury St Edmunds we have an area of land listed by Council as an area of Scenic importance. What did Council do when a local land owner and power company chopped down perfectly healthy trees ……. absolutely nothing!
    So apparently trees are not a feature of scenic importance!

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      How awful Aussie Ed! As a fellow West Suffolk-er I can imagine what an impact that made, we are hardly well-wooded to start with :( Our WoodWatch campaign is here to help local people take action to protect the trees and woods they care about: http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/woodwatch Might be worth trying to get some retrospective planting done, talk to your MP

    • There’s a great local charity near you I think called THE GREENLIGHT TRUST. They are planting woodland all the time and working with schools to educate children about the importance of trees.

      • Clive Coles says:

        Yes ~ Greenlight are a great example of a local community getting stuck in and actively putting in hard graft to create woodland and educate. They in fact hosted the Forestry Panels visit to East Anglia last summer ~ it’s a very impressive set up and is managed with great enthusiasm and commitment.

        But sadly their woodland got hit by the ash dieback problem as did other trusts in East Anglia. “Small” may be beautiful but, with the best will in the world, such trusts such as these cannot afford to employ all the specialist resources that is required to manage and sustain woodland projects.

        They were not alone, In East Anglia , even the Woodland Trust and the Suffolk and Norfolk Wildlife Trusts, who have now conceded they could have planted saplings where the seeds had been initially grown in infected areas of mainland Europe, need to be guided and advised on such issues as tree health and best practice.

        The Government cannot be allowed to divest themselves of their responsibility to us all for the National Forests.Trusts have an important role to play but they are not, in my opinion, the solution. I believe Forest Services should remain within government ~ we do not need another unaccountable quango.

        • Thank you for that Clive, very interesting, and I agree about Government responsibility but they come and go and change the goalposts all the time! Even if one bought a hundred acres of forest and left it to the “people” in your will with special clauses in perpetuity that NO-ONE can build on it, I don’t believe the land would be safe from developers!

          • Janice Smith says:

            I whole heartily agree with you. The goal posts keep being moved to suit what they want .

  55. Clive Coles says:

    · I welcome the commitment by the Government to provide £3.5 million next year to make up the shortfall now that they have dropped their policy of selling off woodlands to fund the remainder of the PFE. This however is NOT NEW MONEY. It was already in the budget for 2013-14.

    · I welcome the £2 million the Government is providing to the Forestry Commission, but would point out that this is going to be stretched to cover the fight against plant diseases and implementing changes in the government statement, and only a small proportion of it will go to fund the Public Forest Estate.

    · I therefore remain concerned that the money the Government has committed falls a long way short of the £22 million a year recommended by the Forestry Panel report. I believe this is the amount needed to ensure all can enjoy the standard of public benefits currently offered by our public forests – access, facilities, education – and to make sure our forests are protected.

    · I note that the Government has also not yet committed funding beyond 2014.

    · The concerns many of us expressed earlier in January about the impact of squeezing the funding provided to run the PFE have not been addressed. The cuts and their impact on the ground in our public forests are real and evident across the country. I see very little in the government statement to reassure me that our public forest will not deteriorate further. In the foreword to the Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement the Secretary of State says “… we need to look after this precious resource ….. Our most urgent priority is to protect what we have ….”
    I welcome and agree with that sentiment, but are concerned that the shortfall in funding might mean that it will not be delivered in reality.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Finance is a big issue, Clive – thanks for this comment. James, our Head of Government Affairs, plans a blog in this series relating the forthcoming Spending Review to the Forests Report, keep an eye out for this

  56. ricknikon says:

    I think that we the Woodland Trust and British conservation groups in general, should maintain liaison and cooperation with similar organisations in Europe and the developed world. The issues surrounding the spread of disease to forestry highlight the importance of this in ensuring appropriate and timely action is undertaken as necessary. The lobbying of governments internationally is mutually beneficial for England and it’s neighbours. We can learn from others and they from us.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      We have just been talking about this in relation to the EU Land Use, Land Use Change and Foresty reporting in regards to climate change policies, Rick. Thanks for your comment and welcome

  57. JENNIFER STRAY says:

    When dealing with Govenment assurances I think experience has demonstrated that even greater vigilance is needed when things seem to be going well!

  58. Gill Dean says:

    Development is a constant threat to conservation, as witnessed first hand in my own area. We must keep fighting to protect our woodlands and open spaces, not just for us but for future generations.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Too true Gill! Welcome – Nikki, our head of campaigning, will be blogging on this interesting omission in the Government’s response in an upcoming post in this series. Thanks for your comment

    • donna newton says:

      So true,without woodland we have no future.An ancient tree is like a stately home it should be admired and cared for.If everyone with room in their garden planted one tree ,what a differance that would make also.A walk in the woods lifts your spirit.I would rather be buried under a tree than in a churchyard.

  59. Meg Paramore says:

    What wil the next generations think of us, sacrificing so much for such ridiculous reasons? there is little reason to cut half an hour of travel time for limited few of the population especially when e-communications are so readily available. Government needs to rethink it’s whole strategy, economic growth is only sustained by greedy use of irreplaceble natural resources – it can have no long-term future. Stop being ostriches, politicians!

  60. Jay Mitchell says:

    It seems a large number of woodlands are threatened by the proposed high speed train development. So the government will “keep in trust for the nation” just until it changes its mind. Don’t trust ‘em – stay vigilant.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      More than 30 ancient woods will be lost forever by the railway lines alone, we have found in our initial research Jay :( – green transport?

    • Caspar says:

      Hear hear. Never trust the b*st*rds even when they swear blind they’ll never to do something terrible. As it is, they freely admit they’re going to tear up acres of woodland for their stupid HS2.

    • Diana Donald says:

      I agree with you and don’t trust them an inch. What appals me is that the Tories always stood for the countryside and farming, but not this lot. More interested in extending the cloth to cut the suit rather than vice versa. Very worrying and quite frankly wicked given the human sacrifices made for this once green and pleasant land.

    • The faster the train goes, the less efficient it is. So tickets for HS2, I expect, will cost more: it’s for the privileged. (They have tiered pricing in Germany, depends on the service class.) The local people round here, mid Cheshire, have a slow stopping train, takes an hour to get into Manchester. Surely there’s room for improvement there – it has to go round a real tight bend which causes its wheels to squeal, and over Northwich Viaduct which is delicate, and sprouting trees. (Good trees, wrong place)

    • M R Lovell says:

      Many existing woodlands have been neglected for too long, and I don’t trust any government to protect them for future generations. Woodlands harbour vast numbers of different invertebrates, mammals and birds, and all we seem to be doing is reducing their habitats in size and number, purely to save a few minutes on a train. Quite absurd!

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