Memorandum submitted by the Woodland Trust (FW 11)

Summary

1. Our evidence begins with an outline of the Woodland Trust. We then offer our thoughts on four areas of the environmental aspects of the Bill. These areas are:

a. The inclusion of wording on natural processes

b. The integration of the Bill's requirements with wider environmental objectives

c. Links to the Water Framework Directive

d. The inclusion of a sustainable development duty

The Woodland Trust

2. The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence. The Trust is the UK's leading woodland conservation charity. We have three main aims: to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees; to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future; to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. We own over 1,000 sites across the UK, covering around 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) and we have 200,000 members.

Natural processes

3. We are supportive of how far the Bill has come in terms of integrating the environment into flood management. In particular we support the inclusion of the wording on natural processes. As has been demonstrated via the Pitt Review and other evidence, natural processes can be a powerful tool in the flood mitigation armoury but one that has been neglected in favour of hard engineering solutions. We hope that the inclusion of this wording will help address this imbalance and strongly support the inclusion of more detail on this within the statutory guidance.

Integration of requirements with wider objectives

4. The Woodland Trust is keen that the requirements of the Flood and Water Management Bill are integrated with other areas of policy and contribute to wider environmental goals and objectives where possible. Water and its use is a crucial part of our natural environment upon which we, our wildlife and our habitats depend. Whilst the Bill has made some steps in this regard we believe it could go further in order to secure the provision of environmental services.

 

5. Decisions about managing water have impacts on wildlife habitats and on human society, in the same way that decisions about managing our wildlife habitats can have impacts on the water environment. All aspects of land management need to be integrated and consider interactions and wider environmental objectives

 

6. For example woodland creation, in the right place, can alleviate flooding and reduces flood risk whilst conferring a range of other environmental benefits to society (as public goods) and the land owner. These wider benefits include supporting biodiversity, improving air quality, maintaining attractive landscapes, creating s source of renewable energy and generating sustainable construction materials. Benefits that can accrue to the land owner include shade for livestock in a field, biomass/sustainable fuelwood to heat homes and schools, windbreak preventing soil erosion, shelter for homes and other buildings helping to reduce energy costs

 

7. For small floods, woodland has a greater flooding reduction effect than other habitats such as grassland.[1] Modelling also suggests that woodland on floodplains can mitigate large flood events by absorbing and delaying flood flows.

 

8. Similarly changes in tree canopy cover in urban areas can have an impact on surface water flooding, responsible for two thirds of the 2007 flooding. Modelling by the University of Manchester has shown than a 10% increase in urban canopy cover can lead to a 6% reduction in surface water runoff.

 

9. In addition to creating and restoring woodland habitats it is important to retain existing native woodland given the role these woods could already be playing in flood mitigation.

 

10. Such activities can be termed 'landscape scale' activities, by which we mean activities which contribute to securing a healthier and more resilient natural environment. These activities vary in scale from the planting of individual trees to help reduce soil erosion to spatially large projects such as wetland restoration.

 

Links to the Water Framework Directive

11. The Flood and Water Management Bill is the sister bill to the Water Framework Directive. Water quantity and quality and inextricably related issues which the Flood and Water Management Bill does not adequately recognise.

 

12. For example trees and woodlands also have a valuable impact on water quality. In some studies tree planting has reduced nutrients and pollutants in watercourses by over 90%. By making links to the Water Framework Directive and ensuring the Bill is more integrated as we describe in paragraphs 4 to 10 above these types of multiple benefits can be realised.

 

Sustainable development duty

13. The draft Bill includes a welcome duty on sustainable development. However the wording needs to be strengthened and there is no indication of what the guidance on this will contain or when it will be published. Further detail on this would be a significant improvement.

 

 

January 2010



[1] The reduction in flooding under woodland is 10-20% greater than under grassland.