Public Affairs (PA) at the Trust includes our Government Affairs team as well as the Campaigning and Conservation teams. These are the people who work hard talking up trees and woods to policy- and decision-makers, locally and nationally and at many different levels. Work can be pretty varied! One recent example of something we don’t do very often was when our Regional Policy & Local Government Officer, Justin Milward, appeared in front of the House of Commons ‘Communities and Local Government Select Committee’ inquiry into the abolition of the regional spatial strategies. Justin did a fine job of ensuring the benefits of trees and woods were put across in the context of some difficult questions surrounding housebuilding targets, future cooperation between local authorities and the role of the new Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
This Committee was established in 2005 to examine the expenditure, policy and administration of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, renamed the Communities and Local Government Committee. The Committee’s membership of eleven is made up exclusively of Members of Parliament, appointed for the duration of the Parliament.
The Committee were particularly interested in incentives to drive forward housebuilding and Justin was able to make the point that such incentives need to be qualitative – incorporating green space such as native trees and woodland – as well as purely quantitative, in order to deliver genuinely sustainable neighbourhoods.
The point was also made that, whilst delivery of natural environment benefits such as woodland is implemented at a local level, this delivery can be greatly enhanced by strategic planning at a spatial level between the national and local, commonly known as ‘landscape scale’ working. Green infrastructure is a good example of how cross local authority boundary planning can help successful integration of wider ecosystems services in a holistic approach.
Our evidence was welcomed by the Committee, which will sit again this month to continue the Inquiry. Moving forward the Trust wants to see the related Local Democracy and Decentralisation Bill, which is coming before Parliament, empower local authorities to work together to ensure that landscape scale working becomes a reality. We will be sure to keep you up to date with this progress.