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The National Forest - a short history

Sence Valley

The idea of a new multi-purpose forest for the nation was first mooted in the Countryside Commission's 1987 policy document 'Forestry in the Countryside'. The aim would be to demonstrate in lowland Britain that a largescale, attractive Forest could be created, blending commercial forestry with ecological, landscape and public benefit. Economic regeneration would come from the restoration of mining sites and in the long term many other benefits would also be achieved. The future of agriculture would be supported through opportunities for rural diversification.

An enormous amount of work was done to test its feasibility, to consult public and organisational opinion and to find the most suitable location.

The site for The National Forest, linking the ancient forests of Needwood and Charnwood was selected from five alternatives and announced in October 1990. The choice was symbolically central to the UK spanning three counties in the centre of England - Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.

From Idea to Achievement

The transformation began on a cold winter's day in 1990 when an inaugural site was planted with help of a Government Minister and hundreds of local school children.

New resources were won and in April 1995, with strong Government backing, the National Forest Company was set up.

Since then, what was a ‘notional forest’ has become a reality, growing year on year, albeit at varying rates depending on funds and availability of land. Woodland cover in 2009 is 18%, well on the way to the ultimate aim of about a third.

In 2009 the impulse towards more planting – the pure woodland creation – is a strong as ever but at the same time the multiple benefits of the Forest (tourism, wildlife, health and the economy) rely on the energy of the Company and its partners to bring to fruition.

2008 ⁄ 09 saw a review of the Forest Strategy which culminated in the production of the new Delivery Plan 2009 - 2014. Meanwhile the Forest is visible, welcomed by local people and increasingly recognised as an exemplar of sustainable development.