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The National Forest Company's initial response to the Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement

Thursday, 31st January 2013

The National Forest Company's initial response to the Government Forestry and Woodlands Policy Statement

This statement includes the Government’s response to the Independent Panel on Forestry, set up after the consultation on the public forestry estate which ended in massive opposition for any ‘sell off’ of the public forest.  Its publication seems to mark the calming, at least, of a pretty turbulent time in forestry policy for England.

In essence, Government accepts the Panel’s main recommendations including, centrally, that publically owned woodlands should be held in trust for the nation. Campaign groups should be feeling a warm glow today.  Forest creation is supported too, albeit an increase of 12%, not 15%, by 2060. A few years ago, Government didn’t want a target at all.  The gloss on this is that it woodland creation has to add value, for example for the market or by being near where people live. The days of woodlands being good anywhere, at any cost, are well and truly behind us.

The other headlines are to protect the asset , in the face of threats to tree health,  and to manage woodlands for their economic, social and environmental value.  Peter Bonfield, Chief Executive of the BRE Group, will lead a panel of business leaders to create a future for woodland and forest industries.

The National Forest is cited in the policy statement as an example of effective forest creation and we’d hope in the future to be an exemplar of an effective woodland economy too, as the woods mature and realise their full value.

This statement is a positive step forward. And then, the realities kick in. Where will the money come from? How will delivery work, capitalising on a nascent level of trust and collaboration? How can thinned out staff and budgets achieve this ambition? No answers yet. The National Forest Company will play its full part and the country as a whole will want to see how a well-crafted piece of work, owned across Government and  based refreshingly on listening and responding, will be implemented.

Read More: Government Forestry Policy Statement