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’.
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