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Coming of Age: Launch of The National Forest Strategy 2014-2024

Thursday, 26th June 2014

The new strategy for the next decade of The National Forest has been launched at an event held in the stunning setting of the Riding School at the National Trust’s Calke Abbey.

Over one hundred guests enjoyed a presentation that included three young students from Ibstock Community College talking about their experience of growing up in The National Forest, and an interview with National Forest Ambassador Adrian Phillips, one of the early visionaries for the inception of the forest in 1987.

“Three things account for the success of The National Forest,” Adrian Phillips told the assembled guests. “Firstly, it is a national exemplar – other areas can learn from your experience; secondly, you have a bold vision and you stick to it; thirdly, it is about people and nature - and the most important word here is ‘and’.”

The students spoke of the importance of the natural environment around where they live: playing widegames in the forest, and being able to explore miles away from their homes because they “know all the paths  -  we’ve grown up with them”. They spoke of encounters with wildlife and the importance of time out in the woods with their dad or grandfather, and the friendliness of the local community if you were lost. They said that not losing views of the forest was very important to them and they challenged planners and developers to take this into account into the future.

“After nearly twenty years of investment and growth on the ground, The National Forest is here to stay,” said Catherine Graham-Harrison, Chair of the National Forest Company. “It is visible in the landscape and valued by a very wide range of people and organisations. The strategy consultation told us that people want the investment to continue, including making it very easy to enjoy the forest, whatever your interest. It needs to be well looked after, into the future.”

Sophie Churchill, Chief Executive for the National Forest Company, introduced the new strategy. She said: “Our new strategy highlights the opportunities for the forest as it comes of age. The decade will be a crucial period to lay down the legacy of the forest, and secure it for future generations.” She thanked the very many partners and volunteers who have been crucial to its success and invited even deeper collaboration to make the most of what has been created so far.

The National Forest Company, a non-departmental public body supported by Defra, is responsible for facilitating the creation of the forest and reaches the beginning of its third decade next year. Dan Rogerson, the company’s sponsor minister, congratulated the NFC and its partners for their passion, skill and determination in creating the forest. He said that its success is an example of the government working through the right medium, with others, to create something of national significance right at the heart of England. He hoped that the sense of the forest belonging to those who live and work in the forest will only increase further.

FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE STRATEGY

Looking forward to 2014-2024, there will be continuing creation of The National Forest, with more trees being planted. Other habitats as well as woodland will continue to be created to develop a mosaic of green spaces and will be counted as part of the ultimate map of the forest.

Forest management will be increasingly important, systematic and long-term. It will take in all aspects of the forest, including non-wooded green areas and visitor attractions. The aim is to make the most of the forest in every way: a great landscape, supporting high quality recreation, heritage and wildlife. The commercial value of the forest will be realised, without compromising its public purpose.

The strategy highlights the importance of a great experience on the ground, for everyone in the forest. Attention will be given to effective marketing and information, making it easier for visitors and locals to enjoy the forest that meets their interests.

During this next ten-year period the National Forest Company will move to become a charity, capable of entrepreneurial activity, and will eventually move to become independent from Defra, its current sponsor government department. This will be achieved through new business models and income generation.

The National Forest Company is successful in gaining support from a wide range of funders including many business sponsors. As the forest matures there will be increasing opportunities for others to be part of a national success story.