Fringe debate to influence and inform response to the Forests Report

It’s been almost 100 days since the Government announced it would halt their plans to sell off the Public Forest Estate (PFE) and we are now at the mid way point before they make their full response to the inspirational recommendations of the Independent Panel on Forestry. To both inform and influence the Government’s response, the Woodland Trust is hosting a very timely fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference on Sunday 7th October –  ‘Where next for England’s Forests’.   

Image: WTPL (click to enlarge)

Rory Stewart OBE MP and Guy Opperman MP will speak at our fringe event on Sunday

This event, chaired by our President, Clive Anderson, brings together three Conservative politicians who share a notable passion for woods and trees. Clive will be joined by the new Secretary of State for the environment, Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP, who has lead responsibility for formulating the Government response to the panel and has a longstanding interest in trees; Rory Stewart OBE MP, who recently planted his own Jubilee wood and has established a forestry and woodlands think tank in his constituency; and Guy Opperman MP, a passionate advocate of forests and a highly vocal opponent of the Government’s thwarted plans to sell off the Public Forest Estate.  They will be joined,  in what promises to be a lively and informative debate, by two members of the Independent Panel on Forestry, the Woodland Trust’s CEO, Sue Holden and CEO of ConFor Stuart Goodall

At this fringe, the Woodland Trust will be calling on Government to fully adopt the recommendations of the Independent Panel’s Report, with the following actions to be adopted as priorities: 

  • Adoption of the panel’s recommended target to increase England’s woodland cover from 10 to 15% by 2060, ensuring the cost effective benefits brought by trees are fully maximised.
  • Significantly increasing the number of people having access to woods within close proximity of their home, ensuring the wellbeing and public health benefits are accessible beyond the 14.4% of the population who currently benefit.
  • Protecting and restoring irreplaceable ancient woodland, thereby securing the very best of our own forest resource.
  • Speeding up delivery of the Tree Health & Plant Biosecurity Action Plan through additional investment in research on tree diseases, ensuring that healthy trees can play their part in delivery of eco system services.
  • Providing a much more supportive planning policy framework at a national and local level which not only protects ancient woodland but also supports new woodland creation and tree planting.

We believe that the Government’s response provides a crucial opportunity to re-connect with the electorate on the serious issue of the future of our forests, and in doing so can help boost the rural economy and realise the potential of forests to help deliver cost effectively on some of the great policy challenges of the age, from climate change to public health to flood alleviation.   

‘Where next for England’s Forests?’ chaired by Clive Anderson takes place in the Concerto Room of the Hyatt Hotel, Birmingham at 5.30pm on Sunday 7th October.

Steve Mulligan, Government Affairs Officer

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About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Forests Report, Government Affairs and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fringe debate to influence and inform response to the Forests Report

  1. Will Godfrey says:

    My feeling is that the Forestry Commission is safe… for now. However, I do agree this needs pretty much constant attention. Currently I’m more concerned about the idea of planning permission changes that contain a very suspicious get-out clause where some undefined extreme need can over-ride environment protection.

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Hello Will, thanks for your comment – we too feel the PFE and a public forest service is safe, but you and Rod are correct – we should scrutinise the details of the government response to make sure the Panel’s aspirations are met fully.

      We are also worried about the downward slide of planning protection – first the NPPF, and now rumours of further measures to reduce alleged constraints to development in an Economic Regeneration Bill. We will certainly be scrutinising any such proposals, and will continue to fight woodland loss at the local level through our Woods Under Threat project. Our current big case is defending Oaken Woods, an ancient woodland threatened by a quarry extension, at a Public Local Inquiry after successfully campaigning to get the planning application called in.

  2. Roderick Leslie says:

    Kaye – ownership of the national forests and a sustainable future for the Forestry Commission are glaringly absent from your priorities. But this was what the whole issue was about, and that is what the people who rose up against sales remain most concerned about. I do hope WT is not going to intentionally or unintentionally divert attention from these, key central issues not least because it risks putting you at odds with the public and many of your members yet again.

    • rbarnes100 says:

      Hello Rod, we have taken the government at its word that it won’t now privatise the PFE, and are recommending that the government accepts ALL the recommendations together as a whole – this includes the details in the report for a sustainable forest service and a publicly-owned but dynamic forest estate that delivers more benefits for more people. What we hope to do in this series of blog debates is to encourage everyone to suggest some flesh on the bonier recommendations that have no target or timescale, and encourage broad discussions on how the recommendations can be taken forward, including airing case studies/examples of initiatives already underway that underline the feasibility of the recommendations.

      Our experience and knowledge lends itself particularly to the topics of: woodland expansion; access to woods; protecting and restoring ancient woodland; tree health & plant biosecurity, and; planning policy. This is where we have the most “can-do” examples – we’re hoping that our guest bloggers and commentators like yourself can add to these and give the government no way out of accepting all the recommendations and responding in January with details and action plans of how they will be implemented. This particular blog was to draw attention to our advocacy/influencing work at the conservative party conference – here’s an update on the event https://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/strong-consensus-reached-on-the-future-of-englands-forests/

      Richard Barnes, Conservation Adviser, Woodland Trust

Sorry, comments are closed as we have moved to a new site: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blogs/woodland-trust/

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