Just 10 years ago the UK saw more than 18,000ha of new woodland planted each year but figures show just 2,600 hectares of woodland was planted in England in the 2011/12 planting season, roughly comparable to the 2,500ha in 2010/11. Increased levels of new planting are evident in Scotland and Wales, where clear woodland expansion targets are already in place. Planting in England continues to bump along the bottom of historically low levels.
England has just 10 per cent woodland cover, compared to 44 per cent for Europe as a whole. A targeted expansion of the area of trees and woodland is essential to provide benefits such as better habitat networks that allow the movement of species in response to climate change, planting to improve water quality and mitigate flooding, improvements in air quality, more green spaces for people to enjoy and support for productive and sustainable agriculture.
The strength of public support for woodland in England was clearly demonstrated in 2011 with the proposed disposal of the public forest estate and, in less than a month's time, after more than a year of deliberations, the final report from the Independent Forestry Panel, set up in the wake of the Government's u-turn on sales, is expected.
Woodland Trust Policy Director, Hilary Allison said: “These figures just aren't good enough - they are far lower than what's needed to achieve the benefits the natural environment can offer in terms of both ecosystem function and the economy. We hope to see the Forestry Panel make clear recommendations around woodland creation in its final report and we continue to call on Government to set clear targets as part of an overall expansion of woodland in England. We need to be planting 10,000ha a year in England. It's vital we plant now in preparation for the changes ahead."
The disappointing figures are set against a background of threats to woodland in England, not least the Government's own National Planning Policy Framework published in April, which retains a loophole putting ancient woodland at significant risk of destruction. Concurrently, large areas of larch and other conifers have had to be felled as a result of Phytophora ramorum 2, and there remains the possibility of permanent loss of some of these woods.
Notes to Editors
Full statistics available at: http://www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/infd-8TAEG4
1 In recent years, a report to Government on forests and climate change chaired by Lord Reada, various government climate reports, the England Woodfuel Strategyb, the UK National Ecosystem Assessmentc and the Natural Environment White Paperd , have all emphasised the value and importance of trees and woodland and the need for woodland expansion.
a Combating Climate Change – A Role For UK Forests: Main Report
An Assessment of The Potential of The UK's Trees and Woodlands to Mitigate and Adapt to Climate Change. Available at http://www.tsoshop.co.uk/bookstore.asp?FO=1159966&Action=Book&ProductID=9780114973513&From=SearchResults [accessed 30th May 2012]
b A Woodfuel Strategy for England, Forestry Commission England. Available at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/fce-woodfuel-strategy.pdf/$file/fce-woodfuel-strategy.pdf, [accessed 30th May 2012]
c UK National Ecosystem Assessment. Available at http://uknea.unep-wcmc.org/, [accessed 30th May 2012]
d Natural Environment White Paper. Available athttp://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/natural/whitepaper/, [accessed 30th May 2012]
2 Forestry Commission. Available at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum, [accessed 30th May 2012]
The Woodland Trust is the UK’s leading woodland conservation charity championing native woods and trees. It has more than 500,000 members and supporters and its three key aims are: i) to enable the creation of more native woods and places rich in trees ii) to protect native woods, trees and their wildlife for the future iii) to inspire everyone to enjoy and value woods and trees. Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres). Access to all Woodland Trust sites is free.