Following the setting up of the Farm Regulations Task Force last year, there was talk about the possibility of mirroring the process in Forestry so as to deal with ‘red tape’ issues in this sector, too. After much discussion, the Forestry Regulations Task Force for England was launched in January 2011 with an aim to “identify ways to reduce the regulatory burden on those who seek to create and sustainably manage forests“.
The members of the Task Force were selected for their individual knowledge and experience rather than to represent the organisations for which they worked. Our very own UK Operations Manager, Gordon Pfetscher – who is also a Director of the UK Woodland Assurance Standard (UKWAS) – has been part of this group and we’re very pleased that he has taken some time now it’s all over to write a guest blog about his experience and what the Task Force has achieved.
Having published the ‘Challenging Assumptions, Changing Perceptions’ report we await a response from the government as to whether they will implement the Taks Force’s suggestions. Normally this takes 12 weeks or so – as ever we will let you know what happens! In the meantime it’s over to you, Gordon:
“On a personal level I’m delighted and privileged to have been invited to take part in this select Task Force. It has been an intense and fascinating 10 month process and I’m pleased with the final result – a report with some powerful recommendations which now need acting on.
The government should take some considerable credit for setting up this Task Force in the first instance, a job which was long overdue and something previous administrations have failed to grasp – although the hard work now begins of acting on all the recommendations the Task Force has made. I have no doubt that those recommendations of interest to the Woodland Trust will be closely monitored by the very active campaigning team – and rightly so.
Of particular interest to Woodland Trust members will be the recommendations on strengthening the protection of ancient woods. These include the following:
- Planning Policy should clearly state that the benefits of local developments must be assessed against the national value of ancient woodland;
- The Government should reaffirm with planning authorities the biodiversity value of Ancient and Semi-Natural Woodlands (ASNW) and Planted Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS);
- Forestry Commission and Natural England’s standing advice for ancient woodland should be adopted and applied consistently by all English Local Planning Authorities.
Another recommendation is that ‘forestry traffic is not considered to be extraordinary traffic, aligning forestry traffic with farming traffic’. A barrier to woodland creation which some people may be amazed to learn exists (and has prevented tree planting in recent years) is that forestry traffic is currently treated differently to farming traffic – even though the latter in all likelihood is (in my opinion) far more persistent and disruptive than any forestry traffic over the life of an average native tree. Also of note, although a bit of a mouthful (!) is a recommendation which should make native woodland creation easier to achieve – ‘where Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) determinations are called for by the Government, the scope and requirements of the reporting and EIA determination should be proportionate to the risk and scale of the application’. This is an EU regulation so is more difficult to change but the Task Force have recommended it because, at present, even creating a relatively small native woodland is subject to the same Environmental Impact Assessment Regulations as an out-of-town hypermarket or the London Olympic park. I can’t think of a more benign and lower environmental impact land-use than growing native trees.”
Gordon Pfetscher, Forest Regulations Task Force member.