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'We Love Living in The National Forest'

Monday, 9th March 2009

The research, conducted by Alison Millward Associates, was commissioned by the National Forest Company (NFC) to find out what local people think about living in the Forest and to see if there are ways to strengthen the links between the Forest and local communities.

Over two hundred people from the three residential areas of Moira/Donisthorpe, Swadlincote/Woodville and Walton on Trent were surveyed in September and October last year.  These communities were chosen to represent areas of high, medium and lower levels of tree planting since the early 1990s.  The respondents ranged from ten year olds to retired miners.

Many commented on the positive transformation of the environment, and that the Forest is an attractive incentive for people to move into or back to the area.  People enjoy being able to get onto the footpath network easily and into woodlands within easy walking distance of their homes.

There was an obvious sense of pride from the respondents as they see the area continuing to improve and a sense of ownership when they had helped to plant some of the trees.

They felt that The National Forest had made their communities more attractive places to live; had created more places to visit and things to do; created better places for walking; brought more tourists into the area; improved the facilities for children and increased the wildlife in their gardens.  The vast majority of people rated the standard of places they visited for tree care, paths maintenance, information boards, car parks and personal safety as good (57%) or very good (27%).

Sophie Churchill, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, said: ‘The support and enthusiasm of local people has always been, and will continue to be, crucial to the success of the Forest.  There is nothing that matters more to me or to those of us involved in The National Forest than the value it has for its residents.  Most days I take care to remind myself that the work some of us are privileged to do is about creating a legacy of a beautiful place for current residents and their successors.

‘The survey also gave us some good pointers for things to do more of, and these will be taken forward.’

Respondents asked that the NFC continues to develop the close connection between the local communities and the Forest. This could be achieved by keeping people informed about Forest developments and consulting with them on site based projects; providing information on walks and activities; widening opportunities for volunteering; finding ways to work with children in the Forest on a repeat basis and by making funds available to create woodlands and other Forest related facilities that foster an immediate connection between the community and the Forest.

Priorities for the future development of the Forest should be to continue planting trees, and to plant them in appropriate densities, in combination with other habitats, in order to bring the greatest benefits to wildlife and to people.  Respondents were interested in knowing the plans for the future management of woodlands and acknowledged the contribution of the Forest to the sustainability of rural living and to mitigating the effects of climate change.

One resident commented:  ‘When I came to live here I thought ‘Oh dear, have I done the right thing? … now it’s a lovely place to live … I couldn’t wish for anything better than the park, all those trees right at the back of my house, the wildlife that comes into my garden, the woodpeckers, I mean the pride is there.’

The research was carried out as part of a review of the National Forest Strategy 2004–14 and will form part of the new Delivery Plan for The National Forest, to be published at the end of March2009.