Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Woodland Trust

1. Summary

1.1 The Woodland Trust welcomes the vision and aspirations set out. In particular the recognition of trees and woods as cost-effective vehicles for delivery of ecosystem services, building on the clear findings of the National Ecosystem Assessment . The NEWP also acknowledges the Read Report’s conclusions on the role of forestry in combating climate change. Implementation of the latter could mean planting around 10, 000ha of woodland per year in England.

1.2 What is lacking however, having set out the Government’s ambition for “a major increase in woodland cover”, is a target for this. All other parts of the UK have a target and the NEA noted that the UK Forest Carbon sink may soon decline because of dwindling planting figures in what is already one of the least wooded countries in Europe.

1.3 The Independent Panel on Forestry can provide important advice on how we tackle barriers to woodland creation and protection but we believe Government needs to be providing leadership and a clearer map for the journey. While the Government has now charged the Panel with setting the scale of ambition for the amount of woodland expansion in England we feel strongly that Defra should also make it clear to the panel who are operating within Defra’s terms of reference that the NEWP and NEA are starting points for the Panel’s work .

1.4 Similarly, we welcome the NEWP’s emphasis on protection of valuable habitats such as ancient woodland, but its achievement requires the commitment of other Government departments. DCLG are especially key to this with the National Planning Policy Framework being prepared at present. Oaken Wood in Kent where 32ha of ancient woodland is currently threatened by quarrying proposals shows how very real the need is for greater connection.

1.5 However the wording around the NPPF suggests the primacy of economic considerations rather than the ecosystems approach which characterises the NEWP generally.

2. Other Elements which are Supported

2.1 A commitment to the creation of 200, 000 ha of new priority habitat. We believe that new native woodland should be at the forefront of this drive.

2.2 The emphasis on payment for ecosystem services, the Ecosystem Markets Task Force and the Natural Capital Committee. The NEA shows the enormous potential of woods and trees to deliver a wide range of ecosystem services through expansion. It is essential that delivery is properly rewarded and incentivised.

2.3 The enablement of partnerships to establish NIAs. Landscape scale action is critical to effective habitat restoration and expansion and will allow a wider range of communities to engage with the natural environment.

2.4 The key overarching theme of “reconnecting people and nature.”

3. Other Areas that could be Improved

3.1 We welcome the stated desire to see more restoration of plantations on ancient woodland sites but the Government should be showing the way by making a commitment to restore all planted ancient woods in its own ownership (around 35, 000ha)

4. Omissions

4.1 An action plan is required to translate into delivery on the ground. Similarly, whilst we fully recognise the difficult funding context, a funding strategy is needed, addressing both public and private funding.

Annex 1

The Woodland 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.

20 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012