So, 2011 is almost over. From plans to sell England’s public forests to reforms of the planning system, to government agency mergers; faced with new parliaments and battling economic pressures… we have campaigned on many of the most pressing issues affecting the UK’s woodland. And hundreds of thousands of you have been with us every step of the way.
I wonder what 2012 will bring…? The start of the year saw plans for a wholesale disposal of England’s public forests announced – and postponed after a huge outcry just 21 days later. We continue to test the Independent Panel on Forestry that was established as a result and are watching this issue very closely. At the same time as the sell-off plans were being debated, planning reforms were put forward which threatened to weaken environmental protections… and then the route for High Speed Two was revealed – alongside frustratingly few details for an in-depth analysis of the environmental risks. As winter turned to spring we were forced to challenge a planning application that threatened ancient woodland, and are now preparing our evidence for a public inquiry. By the summer we were engaging with brand new Ministers in Scotland and in Wales, and in Northern Ireland. Finally, in December the Treasury (not the Government department you’d traditionally expect to be concerned with environmental protection measures) through the Chancellor was deriding the vital Habitat Directives for imposing a “ridiculous cost on British businesses”. What will 2012 bring? Well, if the last 12 months are anything to go by we need to keep checking the left-field!
I just wanted to say a personal ‘Thank you’ from the bottom of my heart for your time, energy and passion this year. Any success we have had in making woodland safer, bigger and better is down to having our members and supporters beside us. And thanks for challenging and pushing us too – we always value your ideas and constructive feedback has really helped our small team improve on what we do, which can only mean more positive changes for woodland.
Everyone benefits from woods and trees and everyone has a part to play. Whatever 2012 throws at them, I know we can handle it together!