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Monday, 22 August 2016

Landowners' group calls for new policy for thriving woodland

The regional director of an influential landowner organisation says Brexit must be used to create a better policy for creating and managing woodland.

New data showing a sharp decline in the planting of new productive British woodland highlights why the UK must grasp the opportunity, according to Dorothy Fairburn of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).

The association which represents thousands of farmers, landowners and other rural businesses throughout the North has responded to a report on changes in canopy cover between 2006 and 2015 published by the Forestry Commission. The report says the government’s strategy for increasing woodland cover in England is failing.

The group, whose members own or manage over half the rural land in England and Wales, says that many landowners want to improve and increase woodland on the land they manage, but current policies create too many barriers.

The CLA is calling for a new world-leading policy to succeed the EU Common Agricultural Policy that will tackle the current barriers to woodland management, and encourage farmers and other land managers to plant new trees.

Dorothy Fairburn added said: “Woodlands are a much-loved feature of the North’s landscape and their importance is far more than aesthetic. Trees are vital to helping improve water quality and delivering natural flood defences, as well as helping tackle climate change and creating habitats for wildlife. Growing trees is also an important business activity and the forestry sector is a critical part of the rural economy.

“This latest Forestry Commission data reinforces our concern that policies aimed at encouraging more woodland planting in England are not working. This failure is caused in part because of longstanding EU rules that exclude woodland from pillar one basic payment scheme payments. Environmental schemes developed under other aspects of the CAP – pillar two payments – have so far failed to provide adequate incentives to redress the balance.

“As the UK develops a policy to replace the CAP, increasing tree planting must be a priority. The government has already set a target of 11 million new trees by 2020. This challenge can and should be addressed as part of the design of a new domestic food, farming and environment policy.”

The CLA says it has raised its concerns with ministers and looks forward to working with Defra to develop a policy that will help deliver good outcomes for UK woodlands, the forestry sector and the wider environment.

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