Confor takes flooding and forestry message to Westminster

Confor was invited to give evidence to a Westminster committee's inquiry into future flood prevention during a constructive debate on flooding and tree planting at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry.

The group heard from Confor's Technical Director Andrew Heald, Tom Nisbet of Forest Research and Austin Brady from The Woodland Trust about the practical ways planting trees can help reduce flood risks as part of broader package of natural flood management measures.

APPGF Chair Chris Davies, MP for Brecon & Radnorshire, was joined at the meeting by Vice-Chair Anne Marie Trevelyan (MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed) and Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee Neil Parish (MP for Tiverton and Honiton).  

Mr Heald presented Confor's new discussion paper, Forestry and Flooding, and Mr Parish asked a series of probing questions of the experts on the practical issues of planting more trees and the impact this would have on farming and local communities. Mr Parish suggested that the government needed to look at innovative financial measures that incentivise farmers to plant trees in places that can reduce water flow and help protect valuable topsoil as well as reduce flood risk.

In December, Anne-Marie Trevelyan asked the government to increase its planned tree planting from 11 million to 200 million trees by 2020.  She said there are positive discussions taking place involving Liz Truss MP (Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and Cabinet Office Minister Oliver Letwin MP (who heads up the National Flood Resilience Review) on tree planting in upland river catchment areas.

Neil Parish welcomed the detailed evidence presented at the meeting and advised that Confor, together with other organisations, would be invited to present evidence to the future EFRA flood prevention inquiry.  He acknowledged there is clear, well-documented evidence from different parts of the country that planting trees can help prevent flooding as part of a wider package of measures. Mr Parish now wants industry to consider "‘really practical ideas" about how forestry can make a difference - linked to a wider need for far more trees to be planted to help plug the future UK ‘timber gap' and ensure British industry has the wood it needs to survive and thrive.

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall, who facilitated the APPGF discussion with Chris Davies MP, said: "This was an excellent and constructive meeting with a range of different bodies debating what practical actions can be taken to move things forward. It is now all about where and how to plant trees in upland river catchments, not whether to do it.

"Confor produced the Forestry and Flooding paper to explain very simply how tree planting can help reduce future flood risks. We will continue to lead the debate in this area and welcome the opportunity to give evidence to the EFRA inquiry on future flood prevention."

Mr Goodall thanked Chris Davies and Anne Marie Trevelyan for providing continued strong leadership to the APPGF and praised Neil Parish MP for his challenging, but constructive approach.

Mr Goodall added: "The Group was attended by a wide range of interested parties - Forestry Commission England, The Green Party and the House of Parliament's Office of Science and Technology as well as The Woodland Trust and Forest Research - as it is really important to build a broad consensus on this important issue."

The Confor discussion paper, Forestry and Flooding, can be accessed here.