Memorandum submitted by The National Forest
The National Forest Company (NFC) was established
as a Non Departmental Public Body in April 1995. It is also incorporated
as a Company Limited by Guarantee. Its founder members were the
Secretary of State for the Environment (subsequently Secretary
of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions) and the Minister
of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The single member is now the
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
The mission statement of the National Forest
To create, through working partnerships and
with community participation, a new 200 square mile multi-purpose
forest for the nation in the heart of England.
To fulfil the requirement for the organisation
and performance of all NDPBs to be reviewed once every five years,
the first review of the NFC had to be commenced before the end
of the financial year 2000-01. The review was formally announced
on 29 January 2001 by Chris Mullin MP, the then Environment Minister.
The review was to be carried out by DETR with a view to completion
by early summer 2001.
The scope if the review covered:
Consultation with partners, stakeholders and
"customers" was undertaken between February and April
2001. This covered the performance of the NFC in terms of Forest
creation against targets, awareness raising, provision and promotion
of new access and recreation opportunities and partnership skills.
At DETR's request the NFC forwarded some 50 contact names from
organisations with which the Company works. These included the
Forest Local Authorities; statutory national and regional bodies,
voluntary and membership organisations, partnerships of which
NFC is a member; community groups, private sector companies and
sponsors, and private landowners.
In addition, the public was invited to comment
via the web and press release.
Following the Election in June the NFC was transferred
to the new Department. In July a draft of the Review was circulated
within DEFRA, FC and NFC for written comments and points of accuracy.
The conclusion and response to the FMPR is now
The National Forest Strategy, published in 1994,
identified overall aims and objectives and specific targets for
woodland planting. These were:
Aims and Objectives
"The overall aims of the Forest proposal
is to create and demonstrate a modern, truly multi-purpose forest
that meets multiple environmental and economic objectives:
To enhance and create a diverse landscape
and wildlife habitat.
To create a major recreation and
To provide an alternative productive
use for agricultural land in a manner that meets environmental
To contribute to the national timber
To stimulate economic enterprise
and create jobs.
To stimulate community involvement
and educational use of the Forest.
To contribute to wider environmental
objectives such as a reduction in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere."
"The strategy envisages woodland eventually
covering about a third of the area compared to 6 per cent now."
"The 33 per cent planting target will be
achieved over a number of decades but the aim is to achieve 70
per cent within the first 10 years."
This target required a total of 13,554 hectares
of new planting to be completed. During the development phase
of the project (1991-95) 600 hectares was achieved. Thus, when
the NFC was set up in April 1995 a total of 12,954 hectares remained;
9,067 ha of which would represent 70 per cent in 10 years.
The original Business Plan drawn up by the Development
Team envisaged a steadily increasing annual planting rate rising
from 308 ha in year one to over a 1,000 hectares in year five
(1999-2000) and for the five subsequent years.
In 1997 the Company took stock following the
first two years of practical experience. Despite achieving 741
ha (85 per cent of target) of new land for planting, there was
already a cumulative shortfall of 125 ha against target. Extrapolating
trends for Years 3-10, assuming no material change in the mechanisms
that the Company was to have at its disposal, it was envisaged
that the annual shortfalls would widen year on year as the targets
became progressively steeper.
The Company produced its own Business Plan which
was submitted to DETR in December 1997. It concluded that at the
current level of resources and mechanisms at its disposal, an
estimated 4,778 ha of woodland creation would be achieved in the
first 10 years ie 53 per cent of the 10-year target set in the
original Business Plan. Still convinced of the desirability of
achieving the original targets, the Plan identified various ideas
that might be explored to enable overall targets to be met. These
- Minor amendments to the Tender Scheme.
- Improved ability for the NFC to acquire land.
- Use of Landfill Tax Credits.
- Increase in Grant in Aid.
- Greater commitment by partners (notably Forestry
- Introduction of flat-rate Woodland Grant Supplement
Establishment of charitable status.
Introduction of a tax incentive scheme based
on the Enterprise Investment Scheme.
Policy reformsrelating to mineral land
restoration and planning obligations.
Changes to Lottery criteria.
- indicates those which have, to a greater or lesser
extent, been adopted.
(In the case of Landfill Tax Credits, the NFC
and its partners have been highly successful but this has not
always translated into land conversion for forestry. For example,
the National Forest Millennium Discovery Centre opened in 2001,
known as Conkers and developed by a partnership, which included
the NFC, known as the Heart of the National Forest Foundation,
attracted nearly £3,000,000 from various Landfill Tax sources
most of which was invested in the attraction itself).
The Company produces an annual Corporate Plan,
which is presented to the relevant Minister each summer. This
covers a three year period: a review of the financial year leading
up to the presentation; detailed proposals for the forthcoming
year; and broad aims and objectives for the following year.
The 1998-9 Corporate Plan was the first opportunity
to introduce new more realistic targets following the Company's
own Business Plan. It was agreed that 500 hectares a year represented
an achievable land conversion target. Therefore, the annual planting
targets and their achievement can be thus summarised:
1 Due to an outstanding year for the National Forest
Tender Scheme, achieving 445 ha in Round 7, the Company proposed
that the target be increased to 575 ha for this one year.
Thus land planted or committed to planting now amounts to
3,100 hectares with a further 575 ha anticipated this financial
year. Maintaining this rate of progress, it is estimated that
by the end of year 10 the total woodland created will amount to
between 5,175 ha and 5,400 or between 50-53 per cent towards the
70 per cent Year 10 planting target. Already tree cover has more
than doubled from the original 6 per cent and by Year 10 it should
have reached just over half towards the desired ultimate 33 per
In addition to tree planting and site creation specified
performance indicators and targets in each Corporate Plan include:
Woodland brought into management.
Linear access created and open access sites.
Sport and recreation facilities created.
Hedgerows planted and brought into management.
Mineral and derelict land restored.
Area achieved through Tender Scheme.
Land acquired through grant aid or direct purchase.
Planning policy documents commented on.
Mineral/derelict land plans and major Forest related
applications commented upon.
Fundraisingbids and donations/sponsorship.
Arts, community and education activity.
Company finance and administration.
The majority of the 3,100 ha of land now committed to Forest
sites is privately owned yet 73 per cent offers public access
with a further 12 per cent offering access when the sites are
Walks, trails, cycle ways and horse riding and other recreational
opportunities are promoted by leaflet and website.
The National Forest is contributing to 27 of the UK Sustainable
Development Indicators ranging from expansion of woodland cover,
public access and improving the health of the population to reversing
the decline in woodland and farmland birds.
735 hectares of Forest land is dedicated to nature conservation.
The Forest also has its own Biodiversity Action Plan, now in its
third year, defining those species and habitats it can contribute
to the UK Rio Summit commitments.
890 hectares of former mineral workings and derelict land
have been restored to woodland, water features and open land for
£35 million of inward investment, plus £95.8 million
leverage, has been attracted into the area via regeneration partnerships
involving the Forest. This will generate some 500 new jobs.
Investment through the unique National Forest Tender Scheme
for woodland creation amounts to £13 million between 1995
and 2001, bringing about diversification of land use and farm
businesses and strengthening of the rural economyand creating
44 new jobs and protecting a further 15.
The growing range of visitor attractions, from stately homes
to new woodland sites, is already attracting 5.7 million visitors
a year (1999 figs) to the area, spending £128 million and
sustaining 3,680 jobs.
At least 7,000 people directly participate in Forest activities
each year. In the last year alone there were 205 National Curriculum
linked school visits involving nearly 8,000 pupils to special
education facilities in Forest visitor centres.
Research and Monitoring
The progress of the Forest and its impact as it develops
is being systematically monitored and recorded. A limited research
programme is also undertaken.
28 November 2001