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The National Forest: A Thriving Place Today, a Legacy for the Future

Tuesday, 31st July 2007

A new report from the National Forest Company - ‘The National Forest - an exemplar of Sustainable Development’ – was launched by Joan Ruddock, Minister for Climate Change, Biodiversity and Waste in London last week (24 July).

Sophie Churchill, Chief Executive of the NFC, explained the thinking behind the report: “Sustainable development is not always easy to get a handle on as an idea but there is no example more physical, more visible, more practical than The National Forest.

“Sustainable development means having a high quality of life now, but not at the expense of our children and grandchildren. This is what we’re trying to achieve in The National Forest. What we are doing in planting the trees and creating the Forest has measurable social and economic benefits for people who live and work here, as well as benefiting the environment.”

The Minister welcomed both the Forest area’s measurable progress towards sustainable development and the National Forest Company’s commitment to assessing its impact. She praised the inspiring achievements that have been secured in the creation of The National Forest and congratulated the National Forest Company (NFC) for setting itself such a challenge – “to be a national exemplar of sustainable development is indeed ambitious.”

The Minister continued: “The report demonstrates how an organisation can assess the impacts of its business and its surrounding environment and take measures to contribute to sustainable development.”

The Chair of the National Forest Company, Dinah Nichols, particularly highlighted the way in which environmental and economic achievement has been accompanied by active community participation and wide ownership of the project.

The report finds that

  • Employment and economic growth rates are higher in the Forest’s Districts than the regional averages
  • The proportion of the population living in the 25% most deprived areas in England nearly halved between 2000 and 2004
  • The Forest is a positive factor in helping to combat climate change. The equivalent of the carbon given out annually by 10,000 family cars will be taken up by the Forest every year between 2008 and 2012.
  • Local support and engagement in the Forest is strong.

Dinah Nichols, Chair of the NFC, commented: “The report shows how well the economy of the area is doing and challenges us to contribute as strongly as we can through jobs created particularly in tourism and the woodland economy. The report also shows that we should continue our wider leadership role with local authorities and communities: that is how a sustainable development legacy can be assured.

“The National Forest is a unique national case study, given its aspiration to reflect and lead the integration of social, environmental and economic policy drivers.”

In looking at how the work will develop in the future, she added: “Whilst we knew the overall direction of travel from existing data, this report gives us some new emphases, such as the timeliness of monitoring the quality and status of wildlife sites, not just that they have been created, and also how woodland birds are doing in The National Forest.”

John Gummer, MP, an Ambassador for The National Forest, greeted the report with enthusiasm and spoke warmly of the importance of maintaining the momentum in creating the Forest: “I am staggered by the difference each time I visit. We must not risk it becoming so familiar that we forget how effective and innovative it is.”

The report details the Forest’s particular achievements in the following areas:
Environment:

  • Woodland cover has almost trebled to 17.5%
  • The Forest is sequestering carbon and making a contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gases
  • Sustainable landscape change is being achieved through creating a range of habitats, through agricultural diversification and through reclamation of derelict and mineral worked land
  • 1,300ha of habitats have been created or brought into management, helping to reverse past habitat and species losses.

Economy:

  • Employment rates exceed regional and national averages
  • The NFC has directly supported the growth of employment in tourism and the woodland economy.
  • The Forest has benefited from £115m investment in regeneration between 1995 and 2006.

Social:

  • Around 13% of people involved in Forest activities led by the NFC and partners come from socially excluded groups.
  • Sustainable development education (with a focus on the environmental) was provided to 200,000 children between 1995 and 2006.

The report details future actions for the NFC to progress, many achievable only with the valuable input of other partners:

  • Continue to promote tree planting to achieve the Forest’s creation
  • Continue to promote wood fuel systems
  • Continue to improve habitats for woodland birds and other designated species
  • Promote sustainable tourism and the woodland economy
  • Work with partners to continue to secure public and private sector investment in the Forest
  • Work with partners to maintain and where possible expand environmental education activity
  • Continue to create new recreational access and maintain existing access to the Forest area.

The report is available on the NFC’s website to download here. For a paper copy of the report please call the NFC on 01283 551211 or email enquiries@nationalforest.org