Written evidence submitted by the Woodland
The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity to respond
to this consultation. The Trust is the UK's leading woodland conservation
charity. We have three 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 and have 300,000
members and supporters.
Government should lead by example in the way it conducts
its business. Sustainable development must take into account the
impact of policies and the working of government on natural habitats:
their biodiversity, and the wider ecosystem services they provide.
As the champion of trees and woods, and especially native trees
and woods, the Woodland Trust believes they have a vital role
to play in ensuring the UK's landscapes are rich in wildlife and
provide for our population in terms of fuel, food and fibre, as
well as providing places for recreation. In particular, the Trust
would like to see:
- Doubling of native tree cover.
- No further loss of ancient woodland.
- All Planted Ancient Woodland Sites in restoration
In order to ensure sustainable development, we believe
there is a need to ensure no net loss of tree cover across the
UK, but rather a significant increase - woodland cover is currently
one of the lowest in Europe - and that woods in the UK are managed
2. How can mechanisms to ensure the sustainability
of Government operations, procurement and policy-making be improved
and further embedded and mainstreamed across Government departments?
2.1 The UK Government should lead by example
on procurement of timber and other wood-based products. The Woodland
Trust supports the existing timber procurement policy, which requires
central government departments, their executive agencies and non-departmental
public bodies only to procure timber and wood-derived products
originating from either legal and sustainable or FLEGT licensed
or equivalent sources. We also support the move to require local
authorities to comply with these requirements.
2.2 It is essential that this policy continues
to be implemented, with sufficient monitoring through CPET (the
Central Point of Expertise for Timber Procurement). The Woodland
Trust strongly supports certification of timber and other products
as evidence for their sustainable production, through either FSC
(Forest Stewardship Council) or PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement
of Forest Certification).
2.3 Government departments with a land management
remit should demonstrate sustainable management of woodland, which
means in accordance with credible certification standards. The
Woodland Trust sees restoration of Planted Ancient Woodland Sites
(PAWS) - ancient woods replanted with non-native conifers - as
a particular priority. Ancient woods are the UK's richest terrestrial
habitat, covering only 2% of its land area. Replanting with conifers
has had a detrimental effect on their biodiversity but as the
conifers reach economic maturity there is an opportunity to reverse
this, restoring the woods to mainly native broadleaved cover.
Certification through FSC or UKWAS (UK Woodland Assurance Standard)
requires landowners to maintain the biodiversity value of PAWS
and bring a percentage into restoration. The Woodland Trust would
like to see all PAWS owned by government departments brought into
programmes of restoration.
2.4 Current systems of measuring and embedding
sustainable development need to be reviewed. For example, it is
questionable whether PSAs have succeeded in delivering a healthy
natural environment. For example, in the UK we have failed to
meet 2010 Biodiversity Action Plan targets. Indicators of sustainable
development - eg bird populations - are sometimes treated as an
end in themselves in the delivery measures chosen, rather than
as indicators of a more general aim eg biodiversity as a whole.
2.5 In order to maximize the opportunities for
sustainable development, there should be a more integrated approach
to land management generally - for example, between agricultural
and forestry policy.
2.6 A measure of the success of sustainable development
should be an increase in tree cover, including a specific target
on native tree cover. The UK is one of the least wooded countries
in Europe, yet trees and woods provide a whole range of important
ecosystem services. They can help us to mitigate and adapt to
climate change. They store carbon, ameliorate flooding, improve
air and water quality, provide shade and shelter, reduce temperatures
in urban areas, and are host to a wide range of biodiversity.
Encouragingly, there is a growing recognition of the value of
woods and trees across government and at Parliament as evidenced
by the Low Carbon Transition Plan,
the commitment to a national tree planting campaign and a supportive
debate in Westminster Hall before the election.
There is a need to ensure the right incentives are available to
encourage tree planting. Recently, increased levels of grant in
Wales and Northern Ireland have been shown to encourage an increase
in tree planting. A 30 per cent increase in grant aid in Northern
Ireland resulted in a threefold increase in applications for woodland
creation grants in December 2009 and January 2010 compared with
the same period the previous year.
3. How can governance arrangements for sustainable
development in Government be improved, and how can sustainability
reporting by Government departments be made more transparent and
3.1 A healthy natural environment is fundamental
to human existence - it is not a luxury. In order to ensure this
outcome, we need political leadership at the highest level, acting
upon overwhelming evidence and providing moral leadership which
will show that the aspiration to be "the greenest government
ever" is truly being acted upon. We believe that each Government
department should be required to produce an ecosystems strategy
and be held accountable for it. Similarly, whilst we recognise
that there is a need to reduce the number of overall targets set
across Government this does not mean that there should be a departure
from the use of intelligent targets which aid efficient use of
resources - indeed there has never been a more important to time
than the present financial climate to foster good stewardship.
We therefore feel that intelligent cross-government indicators
are also required - reviewed by a powerful Cabinet committee.
3.2 Better systems of monitoring and evaluation
are needed. As an example, ancient woodland is the UK's equivalent
to the rainforest, is irreplaceable and is home to more threatened
species than any other terrestrial habitat. In recognition of
the vital role this habitat has in ensuring that wildlife decline
is halted, the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP)committed to maintain
the current extent and distribution of ancient semi-natural woodland.
However, since the target was agreed the Forestry Commission have
been unable to impose a system that is capable of monitoring loss.
3.3 Another important action identified by the
BAP was the restoration of those ancient woodlands degraded by
the planting of non-native conifers. To achieve this objective
the BAP committed to restore 26,800ha of non-native Plantations
on Ancient Woodland Sites (PAWS). The Forestry Commission has
made progress on its own estate; however, monitoring restoration
in the private sector has proved less successful as the Forestry
Commission has been unable to collate information from grants
and felling licences.
4. Was the SDC successful in fulfilling its
remit? Which aspects of its work have reached a natural end, or
are otherwise of less importance, and which remain of particular
4.1 The Sustainable Development Commission has
helped raise awareness of the need for sustainability at a time
when this received less mainstream attention. Moving forward,
sustainable development should be at the heart of policy and decision
making in all government departments, public sector institutions,
5. In formulating a future architecture for
sustainable development in Government, how can it take on board
wider developments and initiatives (eg to develop "sustainability
reporting" in departments' accounts) and the contributions
that other bodies might make (eg Centre of Expertise in Sustainable
5.1 Government should look to the findings of
the TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity) study
and the role that business can play in creating a healthy and
wildlife-rich natural environment. The benefits to business of
engaging with biodiversity and the natural environment are manifold,
including reduced costs, improved brand image, and reaching new
customers. Government should put in place policies and mechanisms
to encourage businesses to invest in the environment. The Green
Investment Bank (GIB) is one opportunity: the Trust believes there
is a compelling business, environmental and social rationale for
ensuring that the GIB funds woodland creation and tree planting
as a contribution to mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate
6. How, without the assistance of the SDC,
will the Government be able to demonstrate that it is "the
greenest government ever"?
6.1 The national tree planting campaign will
be a tangible demonstration of the Government's commitment to
the environment, as would adoption of the Liberal Democrats' commitment
to double woodland cover as a Coalition government target.
6.2 The Government should also re-affirm a commitment
to protection of ancient woodland, which is currently enshrined
in planning policy guidance, and to restoration of ancient woods
planted with non-native conifers, both of which are targets under
the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
13 October 2010
10 Department for Energy and
Climate Change, The UK low carbon transition plan: national
strategy for climate and energy (2009). Back
Hansard debate, Native woodland (9 Feb 2010), at: