Great news on our grants campaign!

Earlier this week I attended the opening day of the Oxford Farming conference and, as ever, I was impressed by the range and quality of both speakers and attendees. The mood was one of optimism. On my return home I was contrasting this with the mood in the forestry sector where the spectre of 2 years in England with no woodland creation grants was casting a shadow over the future for nurseries, contractors and consultants and leaving government policy ambitions around woodland expansion looking very hollow.

Two days on and my optimism has returned. Government has actually taken note of our call for an interim solution to the problem and announced today that they intend to maintain the levels of woodland planting that they fund through Pillar 2 in 2014/15. This is great news and DEFRA should be congratulated for listening, understanding the problem and then taking steps to do something about it.

But the devil as ever, is in the detail.

The DEFRA statement makes reference to funding 2,000ha in 2014/15 – this will be the lowest level since at least 2005 and well below the 5,000ha/year that will be needed if we are to match the aspirational 12% woodland cover target that Government outlined in their forestry policy last January.

The announcement is to be welcomed as is the intention to offer tree planting grants in 2015, ahead of the new environmental land management agreements coming into effect in January 2016. With your help, we have held Government to account and it’s been well worth it, but there is so much more to do.

Much of the talk at the Oxford Farming conference was around food security and “sustainable intensification”. Today’s DEFRA announcement provides the platform to continue to highlight to both government and the farming sector the role of trees and woods in enhancing productive farming, and contributing to that sustainability – be that through shelter for animals and crops, soil protection, flood alleviation, improving water quality, improving air quality (particularly ammonia absorption), or as a renewable energy resource. Trees and woods should be seen as an integral part of that sustainable intensification, not as a competitor for a limited and precious land resource.

Tree planting in the Ribble catchment – targeted tree planting can help support productive agriculture.

Tree planting in the Ribble catchment – targeted tree planting can help support productive agriculture.

It seems that Christmas has either come very early this year or very late… but it is a great start to the year for forests. This announcement hopefully signals an understanding by government of the wider societal benefits of woodland expansion and a determination to provide a platform for that expansion to be delivered.

Listening and understanding is at the heart of another campaign which we have launched today aimed at the Prime Minister, demanding an end to the uncertainty surrounding ancient woodland protection. Please continue to support us, your efforts give a voice to woods and trees that they so badly need.

John Tucker, Director of Woodland Creation

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
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7 Responses to Great news on our grants campaign!

  1. Pingback: Long grass, leadership and ‘Big Society’ Forestry | Woodland Matters

  2. Sylvia Stanton says:

    Government still shows little understanding of the irreplaceable value of ancient woodland. To them a tree is just a tree. No thought of importance of under storey. Takes about fifty years minimum for forest to begin to develop. Then another hundred to be really valuable. Planting a number of saplings will not compensate for the loss of one mature oak which is such an excellent habitat for many species including invertebrates and fungi.

  3. Julie T says:

    Qualified good news about the woodland creation grants – but let’s hope the government’s apparent ‘support’ of woodland planting is not intended as a sweetener to soften us up to the idea of arbitrary axing of ancient woodland for so-called ‘development’!

  4. June McCarthy says:

    It is worrying that whilst planning regulations are being been significantly loosened and development made far easier, the Government has made recent and far reacing changes to the Commons Law, making the rules for applications to have Village and Town Green’s regsitered more restrictive, and is allowing Town and Village Greens which were “wrongly registered” to be deregistered.

    We see also that the Government is now attempting to win support for felling ancient woodland.

    There seems to be an imbalance in favour of development, at a time when so many of our native species are in trouble. We have to question whether this push for development over conservation of the natural environment is right or wise, as the health of the people of this country depends upon, and is inextricably linked to, the environment..We carry on debasing it to our own detriment. Some things are more important than ever higher profits, one of them is definitley health.
    If one developer, in this case the Government, succeeds in felling ancient woodland and sets a precedent , why will not other developers want to follow and present persuasive arguments for doing so.

  5. Derek West says:

    It will be a constant struggle to get this goverment to adopt even a mildly green agenda.Kay you write the Oxford Farming Conference discussed sustainable intensification,What kind of double speak is this?.

  6. Peter Kyte says:

    Trouble with the present government is their emphasis on economic growth to the detriment of the environment. They need a far more balanced and scientific approach than they are currently showing.

  7. Gary Marshall says:

    Thanks John. Very concerned re govt’s “attitude” to Ancient woodland and their confusing/misleading stance on many green matters. Gary Marshall.

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