MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY THE FORESTRY COMMISSION
1. This memorandum concentrates, as requested
by the Committee, on the Forestry Commission's response to devolution
and the progress it has made against its objectives.
2. The Forestry Commission is the government
department responsible for advising on and implementing forestry
policy in Great Britain. Forestry is a devolved matter and the
Commission therefore reports separately in England, Scotland and
Wales to, respectively, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food, Scottish Ministers and the National Assembly for Wales.
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has responsibility
for forestry issues which have not been devolved, such as international
negotiations, on which he consults the devolved administrations
with a view to agreeing the UK line. He would normally convene
and chair any meetings of the Joint Ministerial Committee on forestry
3. The Commission is headed by a Board of
Commissioners, whose principal duties and powers are defined in
the Forestry Acts 1967 and 1979. These are set out in Annex 1.
What we do
4. In practice, the Commission:
provides advice to Ministers;
sets standards for good forestry
offers grants for expanding, regenerating
and managing forests;
undertakes and commissions research;
regulates tree felling and
protects Britain's forests from pests
5. The Commission is the largest woodland
owner in each of England, Scotland and Wales, managing in total
around 830,000 hectares. These forests are a powerful vehicle
for the practical delivery of a range of government policies.
Each year they play host to 50 million visits and produce over
5 million tonnes of wood. The Commission's 120,000 hectares in
England include some of the country's finest forests, such as
the ancient Crown foreststhe New Forest and the Forest
of Deanas well as newer forests such as Thetford and Kielder.
How we do it
6. The Commission has two executive agencies:
Forest Enterprise (FE), which is currently the subject of its
first quinquennial review, and Forest Research (FR). FE is responsible
for managing forests which Ministers place at the Commissioners'
disposal while FR is responsible for undertaking forestry research.
In total, the Commission employs 3,268 staff at over 80 locations
throughout Great Britain.
7. In carrying out its functions, the Commission
works closely with a wide range of other bodies, both within and
outside Government. In England, this involves particularly close
liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF),
which is responsible for administering the Farm Woodland Premium
Scheme (FWPS) as well as for co-ordinating the England Rural Development
Programme (ERDP), and the Department of the Environment, Transport
and the Regions (DETR), which takes the lead on matters affecting
the countryside more generally.
8. The Commission welcomed devolution and
has taken a number of steps to ensure that its policies and programmes
are responsive to the separate needs of England, Scotland and
9. The principal statutory change has been
to make the Commissioners accountable separately and distinctly
to Ministers in each country. This relates not only to forestry
policy, but also to finances: the Commission is now funded separately
by Scottish Ministers (covering its activities in respect of Scotland),
Westminster (covering both its activities in respect of England
and those areas, such as plant health, international policy, research,
direct support for Commissioners and pensions, which are carried
out on a Great Britain-wide basis) and, prospectively, by the
National Assembly for Wales (covering its activities in respect
of Wales). The assets, which the Commission uses for carrying
out its activities in Scotland and Wales, have been transferred
to the Scottish Parliament and The National Assembly respectively.
At the same time, the "lead Minister" role, which post-devolution
is as described at paragraph two above, has been transferred from
the Secretary of State for Scotland, who no longer has any responsibility
for forestry, to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
10. The Commission's own structures and
practices pre-devolution already allowed it to respond well to
local needs. It has, however, taken this further, strengthening
significantly its National Offices in Cambridge, Aberystwyth and
Edinburgh so that they become the principal contact for Commission
business, with responsibility in each country for servicing the
needs of Ministers, drawing up plans as to what the Commission
as a whole intends to deliver, integrating these plans with the
country's other policy initiatives and preparing annual reports
to Parliament as to what has been delivered. They also have responsibility
for liaison with other government departments and agencies on
policy issues. The draft concordat on forestry matters between
Scottish Ministers, the National Assembly for Wales and the Minister
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food provides that each party will
nominate two non-executive Commissioners to the Board. The Commission
has also re-structured its Regional Advisory Committees so as
to ensure that they are able to provide advice which is genuinely
regional: in England this has meant increasing the number from
three to eight to reflect the boundaries of the Government Offices
for the Regions.
11. Most importantly, our policy-making
recognises that we are responding to three distinct policy leads.
This has led, in particular, to the drawing up of country forestry
strategies for England, Scotland and Wales, reflecting the circumstances
and aspirations of each. Implementing these strategies is involving
adjustments in each country to the way we operate our grants schemes
and to our management of the public forest estate.
12. Devolution has also given further impetus
to our partnership working. In addressing the needs of each country,
we are working increasingly closely both with other Government
departments and agencies, in particular MAFF, the Scottish Executive
Rural Affairs Department, the National Assembly for Wales Agriculture
Department, and with local bodies, to mutual benefit. Examples
in England include our close involvement with MAFF on the ERDP
and short rotation coppicing and with DETR on Community Forests
and the National Forest.
13. In responding to devolution, we have
been careful to safeguard the benefits of remaining as one body
with responsibilities throughout Great Britain. These range from
the economies of scale obtained by operating efficient, expert
core services, to the ability, where appropriate, to apply throughout
GB lessons learnt in one locality. It also allows us to take a
pragmatic approach to those issues where the appropriate scale
is likely to be Great Britain, such as timber marketing or the
important strategic and long-term research undertaken by FR. Our
structure, as shown at Annex 2, reflects our overall approach
post-devolution, with the three National Offices taking the policy
and presentational lead on most issues, supported by a range of
14. The Commission's objectives are:
1. to protect Britain's forests and woodlands;
2. to expand Britain's forest area;
3. to enhance the economic value of our forest
4. to conserve and improve the biodiversity,
landscape and cultural heritage of our forests and woodlands;
5. to develop opportunities for woodland
6. to increase public understanding and community
participation in forestry.
15. The Commission's achievements against
its objectives are set out each year in the reports which it,
and its two agencies, make to Parliament. The latest versions
are enclosed; a report on the Commission's progress against the
targets in its Public Service Agreement is at Annex 3. However,
as the annual reports relate to 1998-99 (the move to annual reports
and accounts to three Parliaments has meant that this year's reports
will not be published until next month), the Committee may welcome
an update on more recent activity.
16. The emphasis of the Commission's activities
has shifted considerably in recent decades. For much of the twentieth
century it focusedsuccessfullyon its initial remit
of creating a strategic reserve of timber. Since the 1980's, however,
there has been a major shift in both policy and practice in recognition
of the value of forests for wildlife conservation and landscape
enhancement and of the impact of forests on people, whether as
a valued recreational resource or as a focus for local community
involvement. As a result, the Commission's objectives now reflect
the fact that Britain's forests and woods can, and should, deliver
a wide range of benefits.
17. In providing these benefits for this
generation and those to come, forestry fits squarely into the
concept of sustainable development. Indeed, the principles on
which UK forestry policies (and hence the Commission's objectives)
are based flow directly from those agreed at the Earth Summit
in Rio in 1992. The Commission both plays an active partworking
closely with other departmentsin international negotiations
on the promotion of sustainable forest management worldwide and
is responsible for ensuring that domestic policies are consistent
with what is agreed. This means above all achieving an appropriate
balance between economic, environmental and social benefits.
18. The foundation stones for delivering
these benefits are the Commission's first two objectives of protecting
Britain's forests and expanding their area. For the former, it
has two principal tools. One is the work of our dedicated Plant
Health service in regulating and inspecting imports against pests
and diseases. Another is the tight control we exercise on the
felling of trees, pursuing all cases where there is clear evidence
of illegal felling and insisting on the replanting of felled areas
where convictions are obtained. We exercise a general presumption
against the conversion of woodland to other land uses unless there
are overriding public benefits. Forestry expansion, almost all
of which is undertaken either by FE or with Woodland Grant Scheme
(WGS) support, as continued in recent years at a rate of almost
16,000 hectares per year, with an increasing emphasis on broadleaves.
Economic Benefits (Objective 3)
19. The Commission remains committed to
enhancing the economic value of Britain's forest resources. Forest
Enterprise has consistently met its production targets, making
efficiency savings of around 5 per cent annually as it has done
so. In 1999-2000, FE produced 5.6 million tonnes of wood. This
has been important not only for returns to the taxpayer, but also
for the UK's wood processing sector. Working with a number of
partners, the Commission commissioned in 1997 a major study into
the development of the UK softwood market. The study identified
a number of areas where action was needed if maximum benefit was
to be gained from the forecast doubling of GB production over
the next 25 years. These are being actively pursued, in particular
with the successful launch of the Scottish Forestry Industries
Cluster, which aims to provide 1,000 jobs in the sector over five
years. A similar approach is being developed in Wales.
20. The environmental credentials of wood
are important in the market place. The Commission, working with
other UK producers and Nordic timber producers, recently launched
a three year campaign to promote the merits of wood as a raw material;
the "Wood for good" campaign emphasises the fact that
wood is sustainable, fashionable and energy-efficient.
21. The Commission continues to assist woodland
owners and managers, providing in 1999-2000 more WGS support than
ever before. This support, together with the agriculture department's
FWPS, reflects in part the role forestry can have in safeguarding
rural employment, particularly during a time of agricultural decline.
This theme features prominently in the ERDP, which provides £139
million for the WGS over seven years. It is also exemplified in
the success of the South West Forest which aims to contribute
to revitalising the economy and environment of rural communities
in parts of Cornwall and Devon.
22. The Commission has taken a number of
steps to ensure that its grants are as effective and user-friendly
as possible: firstly, by adopting a discretionary approach, targeting
its grants to meet local needs, for example through the use of
challenge funds; secondly, by undertaking a thorough review of
the administration of grants and licences to ensure the maximum
use of modern technology and the minimum bureaucracy. We would
expect this review, in which the private sector has been closely
involved, to be completed by Spring 2001.
23. All this activity has, however, been
against the background of a severe market downturn. UK timber
prices have fallen by 45 per cent since 1998. Whilst the market
has historically been cyclical, such a fall is unprecedented.
Given the UK market's dependence on imported timberaccounting
for over 80 per cent of consumptionthe most significant
factor has been the continuing strength of sterling. The fall
has had an impact on every sector of the industry, with a number
of casualties. It has also caused serious financial difficulties
for the Commission (see para 38 below). There can be no doubt
that the sector faces difficulties for some time to come.
Environmental Benefits (Objective 4)
24. Environmental considerations are taken
carefully into account in everything which the Commission does,
reflecting the Commissioner's statutory duty to balance the interests
of forestry and the environment. The Commission makes a major
contribution, both through FE and Grant Aid, to delivering the
government's Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP): 23 per cent of the
priority BAP species are primarily woodland-based. The FC is the
lead partner for five UK Habitat Action Plans (HAPs) for native
woodland habitat types and plays a leading role for a number of
Species Action Plans (SAPs) for woodland species, such as cow-wheat,
capercaillie, red squirrel and wood ant. We also contribute to
meeting targets under HAPs and SAPs for non-woodland habitats.
Taken together, this activity represent a major commitment which
is likely to be difficult to deliver in full if the Commission's
current financial difficulties continue.
25. All 62,000 hectares of the Commission's
own forests which are Sites of Special Scientific Interest are
managed in accordance with plans endorsed by the conservation
agencies, whilst 88 per cent of scheduled ancient monuments are
similarly covered. In addition, 72 per cent of the estate is now
the subject of forest design plans, which ensure that a programme
is in place to move from the single age plantations of the past
to more diverse and attractive woodlands.
26. Delivering these environmental benefits
often involves close collaboration with others. An example of
this increasingly important approach is our work in the New Forest
where we have worked with partners on a highly successful EU LIFE
project and where we are looking forward to working closely with
the proposed National Park Authority as we seek together to safeguard
a unique part of England's heritage. Another is the Border Mires
programme. This project, which aims to restore active blanket
bog in Kielder forest, is led by Forest Enterprise and Northumberland
Wildlife Trust, in collaboration with Northumberland National
Park, English Nature, Newcastle University and RAF Spadeadam.
27. In acting to encourage others to protect
the environment the Commission is placing increasing emphasis
on long-term planning, with a specific grant available for woodland
owners to produce plans covering 20 years. We issue guidance on
a range of environmental issues, such as water and soil conservation
and archaeology and landscape design. We also scrutinise all applications
for new planting, felling and restocking against those guidelines
and the requirements of the environmental impact assessment regulations.
Social Benefits (Objectives 5 and 6)
28. The social aspects of forestry are of
increasing importance worldwide. If forests are to be a major
use of Britain's landoften at taxpayer's expensethey
must deliver benefits to Britain's people. The most tangible benefit
is as a place for recreation. The Commission is Britain's biggest
provider of outdoor recreation, hosting 50 million visits annually.
Recent research shows that these visits to an outdoor, restorative
environment can make a significant contribution to the nation's
health. They also provide valuable educational opportunities.
Forest Enterprise has undertaken a major review of its recreation
policies, fine-tuning them in response to the ever-changing needs
of customers, whether for specialist activities such as car rallies
and mountain-biking or for more traditional pursuits such as walking.
However, resource difficulties have not always made it possible
to meet those needs, with, for example, under-investment in our
cabins and campsites.
29. Not all woodland owners have the same
policy of free access as Forest Enterprise. The Commission advised
Ministers in England and Wales that the best way to encourage
access to woodlands was not through a new statutory right of access
to woodlands, but instead through a combination of increased and
more targeted incentives together with a new instrument, dedication,
to provide long-term security of access to key woodlands. This
advice was accepted by Ministers and is reflected in the provisions
of the Countryside and Rights of Way Bill.
30. The Commission wants to ensure that
more people have a say in how woods are managed. At the wider
policy level, this has involved extensive consultations to prepare
the ground for the three country strategies. For private woodlands,
we have developed sophisticated and effective consultation procedures,
including Internet access to a public register of new planting
and felling applications. Forest Enterprise has launched an initiative
on community involvement, offering local communities a wide range
of options as to how they might become involved. The launch document
31. The Government has made social inclusion
a high priority. The Commission and the Countryside Agency are
working together in England on an initiative which recognises
that, if forests are to contribute to this goal, more woodlands
are needed near towns and in areas of social and environmental
deprivation. The Community Forests programme has been a great
success, with nearly 7,500 hectares of new woodlands planted in
the 12 forest areas since 1991. The grant of £9.4 million
from the Capital Modernisation Fund will provide the project with
a welcome and significant boost. Together with DETR and the Countryside
Agency, the Commission is considering how community forestry can
be used to assist with the implementation of other regeneration,
forestry and community-based initiatives.
32. Perhaps the most significant developments
in recent years have been the specific steps taken to integrate
these three strandsthe economic, environmental and social.
The UK Forestry Standard, launched in January 1998, sets out in
one document all the criteria and standards required for the sustainable
management of the UK's forests and explains how progress will
be monitored. In 1999, agreement was reached by the whole range
of interested parties on the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme, based
closely on the UK Forestry Standard, against which forests can
be independently certified as being managed to the highest international
standards of sustainability. Forest Enterprise secured the certification
of its own estate in 1999. This represents independent assurance,
recognised by the Forest Stewardship Council, that FE is delivering
genuinely sustainable forest management.
33. Forestry's ability to help deliver a
range of economic, environmental and social benefits is also reflected
in the Government's forestry strategy for England, A New Focus
for England's Woodlands. The strategy was published in December
1998 and sets out the Government's priorities and programmes for
delivering sustainable forestry in England. The strategy is based
around four inter-related programmes: Rural Development; Economic
Regeneration; Recreation, Access and Tourism; and the Environment
and Conservation. Each of the four programmes includes a range
of actions that the Government plans to take over the next five
to ten years. A copy of the strategy is enclosed. The Government
is considering publication of a progress report on implementation
of the strategy during 2001.
34. The strategy has led to a much closer
working relationship between officials in the relevant government
departments (MAFF, DETR and FC) and their agencies (including
the Countryside Agency, the Environment Agency, English Nature
and English Partnerships). Many of these organisations are now
looking for the scope to use forestry as a vehicle to help deliver
their own objectives. Achieving an integrated approach was one
of the four guiding principles for the Strategy. Annex 4 sets
out the benefits which are accruing by applying this approach
to implementing the Economic Regeneration Programme.
35. To coincide with publication of the
strategy, the Government established an England Forestry Forum
which is chaired by the Forestry Minister, Elliot Morley MP. The
Forum normally meets twice a year and members include representatives
of environmental, social and business organisations. The Commission
provides the secretariat for the Forum. The Forum's terms of reference
share and exchange proposals for
implementing the Government's Forestry Strategy for England; and
monitor and review progress with
implementation of the Forestry Strategy.
36. The Forum has established a number of
working groups which are examining a range of detailed issues
including business advice, training and support; land regeneration;
town and country planning; protection of ancient semi-natural
woodland. The Working Groups are due to submit their recommendations
by the end of this year.
37. The Commission believes it is making
good progress against its objectives despite the difficulties
created by the low price of timber (see para 38). Perhaps more
importantly, external observers appear to agree. Public Opinion
Surveys undertaken in 1995, 1997 and 1999 show an increasing level
of public satisfaction with the quality of both Britain's forests
in general and the Commission's forests in particular: 73 per
cent of those asked about places to visit rated the Commission's
forests as good or very good. Respondents to the extensive consultation
on the quinquennial review of Forest Enterprise were overwhelmingly
of the view that its performance had improved considerably since
its creation in 1996 and that it met their needs. The successful
completion of the certification process described in para 32 above
provided further assurance, against closely defined and challenging
38. However it is clear the Commission would
have been able to make greater progress had it not been confronted
with the financial implications of the fall in timber prices.
In 1998-99, FE timber sales accounted for 73 per cent of Commission
income; in 1999-2000, these sales were 22 per cent below target.
This financial gap could, in theory, have been bridged by sales
of land. However, the Government confirmed in 1998 that there
would be no large scale sales of public forests, which continue
to provide important public benefits. To avoid breaching its Vote
limit, it was therefore necessary for the Commission to increase
timber production (and alter its method of timber sales); to defer
land acquisition and new planning; to cut grants to other woodland
owners; to defer research work, investment in recreational conservation
projects, and capital expenditure on buildings, equipment and
computers; and to seek supplementary estimates of £7.5 million
from the UK Parliament (and £5.6 million from the Scottish
Parliament), in addition to increasing its planned programme of
small scale land sales. Similar action is being taken in the current
financial year. These difficulties have led to a recognition that
the Commission's current funding arrangements, based largely on
a forecast of timber prices over a three year period, need to
be re-examined. Following a Treasury-led review, inter-departmental
discussions are seeking to identify a financial regime for the
future which would, if agreement can be reached, allow a more
flexible response to changing timber market conditions, without
jeopardising the Commission's social and environmental work.
39. In delivering public benefits, the Commission
seeks both to develop and make the best use of all its staff.
As part of its drive to modernise its operations, it has introduced
a range of initiatives including new pay and grading structures,
an improved performance management system and new personnel and
training policies. The Commission has been recommended for accreditation
as an Investor in People. Most importantly, the Commission has
recently removed the outdated distinction between industrial and
non-industrial staff, creating for the first time a single workforce,
simplifying administration and removing artificial barriers to
allow all staff to contribute to the full in delivering the Commission's
40. In short, the Commission
has changed its organisational and
financial structure and its operational practices in response
to devolution and has prepared forestry strategies for each country
as the basis for devolved programmes of work;
has delivered much on its core objectiveseconomic,
environmental and socialbut could have achieved considerably
more were it not for the unprecedently low level of timber prices
combined with the inflexibility of its funding regime.
THE FORESTRY COMMISSIONERS' PRINCIPAL DUTIES
AND POWERS UNDER THE FORESTRY ACTS 1967 AND 79 AND THE PLANT HEALTH
To promote the interests of forestry, the development
of afforestation and the production and supply of timber and other
The promote the establishment and maintenance
of adequate reserves of growing trees.
To endeavour to achieve a reasonable balance
between the development of the forestry and the environment.
To manage land placed at their disposal by Ministers.
To undertake forestry research.
To protect forest trees and timber from pests.
To provide assistance, including grants or loans,
and advice to woodland owners.
To grant licences for the felling of growing
PSA PERFORMANCE TARGETS
The Forestry Commission relies on timber income
for much of its funding. Since the CSR settlement there has been
a serious decline (of some 45 per cent) in timber prices and some
PSA targets are unlikely to be met.
The Commission's targets to be achieved in Great
Britain by 31 March 2002 and the relevant objectives to which
each applies are noted below together with the level of achievement
by 31 March 2000. Unless otherwise stated the targets are on course
to be met.
(i) ensure that 1.1 million hectares
of woodlands have sustainable management plans and that 50,000
hectares of felled woodlands are restocked (Objectives 1 and 4);
by 31 March 2000, there were 752,000 hectares
of woodland with sustainable management plans and 14,210 hectares
of felled woodlands had been restocked against the milestone target
of 16,000 hectares.
(ii) provide incentives to have 57,000
hectares of new woodlands planted and increase the use of challenge
funds and tenders to buy better value public benefits without
increasing generally available tariff grants. For new planting,
this will be 12 per cent by area and 35 per cent by monetary value
(Objectives 2 and 4);
by 31 March, there were 16,521 hectares of new
planting achieved against the milestone target of 19,000 hectares12.6
per cent by targeted funding representing 21.5 per cent of the
monetary value. The 2002 target for new woodlands planted is unlikely
to be met due to funding difficulties but the challenge fund target
should be met.
(iii) guard against possible landslip
in its forests in the Welsh Valleys by establishing priorities
with £2.5 million of remedial work being completed each year
in 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02 respectively (Objective 1);
this target becomes the responsibility of the
National Assembly for Wales when funding for forestry is devolved
[expected April 2001]. Only £850,000 was spent in 1999-2000
due to delay in local authority planning approval for the work
but this will be rectified in future years.
(iv) develop methods to benchmark the
return from commercial forestry on the FC estate against equivalent
private sector forests and set an increased rate of return thereafter
terms of reference for this study are being discussed
with HM Treasury.
(v) conduct a trial sale of future timber
cutting rights (to bring forward income whilst protecting public
access) with the public tender process to be completed by 31 March
2000 and any sale completed by 31 March 2001 (Objective 3);
legal difficulties and value for money issues
will delay the completion of the public tender process beyond
the target date and these problems are being discussed with HM
Treasury to seek a way forward.
(vi) submit proposals to Ministers by
31 March 2001 for a more transparent system to improve accountability
for public policy decisions on environmental outputs (Objective
(vii) improve the facilities provided
by Forest Holidays through a public/private partnership to refurbish
the 4 existing cabin sites (two in England and two in Scotland)
by 31 March 2000 and build two new sites (one in England and one
in Wales) by 31 March 2002 (Objective 5);
the Commission identified a partner by advertisement
whose business plans were in harmony with objectives but who was
eventually unable to conclude a deal. Other options are now being
explored to minimise further delay in making improvements.
(viii) reduce the cost of administration
for each £1 of grant given from 19p in 1998-99 to 18p in
the cost of administration for each £1 of
grant given in 1999-2000 was reduced to 18.7p.
(ix) reduce the production cost of a
cubic metre of timber from £16.42 in 1998-99 to £16.23
the cost of producing a cubic metre of timber
in 1999-2000 was reduced to £14.03.
FORESTRY FOR ECONOMIC REGENERATION: AN INTEGRATED
1. One of the four guiding principles of
the Government's Forestry Strategy for England is implementation
through an integrated approach across Government. This Annex shows
how an integrated approach is supporting implementation of one
of the Strategy's four programmesForestry for Economic
2. The Strategy establishes forestry's role
in supporting the delivery of wider regeneration policy. Its shows
the opportunities forestry can offer, not just in terms of its
value to the environment, but for wider benefits to society within
the context of broader economic, health and social agendas. In
essence, the Strategy has provided the Forestry Commission, for
the first time, with a clear and legitimate basis for talking
with those Government and private sector bodies responsible for
economic and physical land regeneration. It has also helped to
establish partnerships what will lead to quantifiable outputs.
3. The case for forestry as part of regeneration
strategy was established in 1997 by research into "The Potential
for Woodland on Urban and Industrial Wasteland" 
by the University of Manchester. This work, commissioned by the
Commission and the National Urban Forestry Unit, showed that there
were approximately 175,000 ha of derelict and despoiled land in
England. Of this, it was estimated that 87 per cent could be considered
to justify reclamation. The findings also showed that economic
activity was likely to continue to deliver significant areas of
new damaged and disturbed land. The research concluded that if
no more than 10-20 per cent of the current land stock was restored
to trees up to 40,000 ha of new woodland could be created. It
gave a clear indication that forestry had a great deal to offer
as a cost effective and sustainable solution to the regeneration
of damaged and derelict land and their surroundings.
4. The first task of the Economic Regeneration
Programme was to identify those areas in England where it could
be most effective in supporting the Government's broader regeneration
policies over the next three-five years. This work identified
four priority areas in the North West (Manchester/Merseyside),
the North East (south Tyneside and Teesside), South Yorkshire
(Sheffield to north Nottinghamshire) and the Midlands (Birmingham
and south west Leicestershire). In addition, the Thames Chase
Community Forest Area of East London ranked highly and remains
important to the programme. Together, these priority areas are
now the national focus of the Commission's economic regeneration
work. They also establish the basis for implementation of the
Economic Regeneration Programme by our regional teams through
partnerships and initiatives.
5. In its simplest terms, the aim of the
programme is to make the case for forestry and integrate it into
the mainstream regeneration policy. This can only be done in an
atmosphere of mutual co-operation and partnership. The Strategy
has given the Commission a greater depth of credibility at the
policy level, leading to greater recognition by other organisations
of the potential relevance of forestry. DETR's Regeneration Directorate
has for instance been instrumental in enabling the Commission
to open up a dialogue with teams in the Regional Development Agencies
(RDA) who are responsible for regeneration policy.
6. Alongside this, we are preparing a Memorandum
of Understanding with English Partnerships, the Government's regeneration
agency. This will set out the framework for using forestry as
the vehicle for achieving regeneration objectives. It will also
address institutional and practical issues including the long-term
ownership and management of land. The Memorandum reflects in both
organisations that by integrated working they can deliver their
shared objectives more effectively.
7. The Coalfields Initiative is one of a
number of areas identified with opportunities for early action
and the Commission and English Partnerships are developing an
action plan to move this forward rapidly. The intended output
over the next three-five years is the creation of several hundred
hectares of new woodland on former colliery spoil tips within
economically and physically disadvantaged areas. In addition to
creating the new woodland, the action plan will cover requirements
for its ongoing management.
8. In addition to their role of implementing
regeneration policy per se, the RDAs will also be responsible
for identifying and bringing forward parcels of land to be planted
with new woodland. This integrated working approach with English
Partnerships has helped to legitimise our place in the discussions
with the RDAs over future use of their land portfolios. This in
turn is beginning to create a more constructive context for other
regionally based opportunities.
9. This example illustrates how the Strategy
is helping to ensure that the delivery of forestry policy in England
is more effective than hitherto. The Strategy demonstrates forestry's
relevance as a cost-effective vehicle for delivering many of the
Government's social, economic and environmental policies. Similar
integrated approaches are being applied to the other three programmes
of the Strategy.
1 "The Potential for Woodland on Urban and Industrial
Wasteland". Forestry Commission 1999. Back