Confor welcomes flood petition response

Confor has welcomed a positive response by the UK Government to a parliamentary petition on tree planting and flooding - but stressed that more funding will be needed to deliver the planting and a wide range of associated benefits.

The petition - Make planting trees a priority to reduce flooding by improving soil and drainage - has received almost 28,000 signatures in only two months and has now triggered a detailed response from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It begins: "Trees can slow the flow of water down and reduce the impacts of floods; we are currently exploring the increased role that this could play in flood risk management."

The response also highlights the "leading research and demonstration projects" supported by Defra - including the 'Slowing the Flow' scheme in Pickering North Yorkshire, which was a case study in Confor's Forestry and Flooding paper, launched in early February.

The Defra petition response says:  "These projects indicate that woodlands can slow the flow of water through smaller catchments and reduce the impacts of some floods. We will continue to support such investigations, gathering further evidence into the potential benefits that land management changes, such as tree planting in catchments, could have on reducing flood risk, in addition to the wider environmental and economic benefits that they could provide.

"We are also supporting ongoing Forestry Commission research into the role that woodlands could play in reducing flood risk. The England Woodland Grant Scheme has already targeted 1,857 hectares of planting to help reduce flood risk and diffuse pollution in England. We have also designed the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in the new Rural Development Programme to help achieve multi-objectives including flooding and water management."

Confor's Technical Director Andrew Heald, who wrote the discussion paper on forestry and flooding, said: "This is a very encouraging response by Defra, reflecting the ideas and case studies highlighted in the Confor paper.

"The case for tree planting being part of the solution to reduce future flood risks has been made - and there is very positive work going on to identify where planting would be best deployed and what form it would take.

"The big challenge is identifying those 'innovative funding mechanisms'  mentioned by Environment Secretary Liz Truss so we can deliver the right woodland in the right places. We need to be honest and say additional finance will be needed - but if deployed in the right places, that funding can not only help reduce flood risks, but also deliver a range of other benefits.

"They include providing enhanced habitats for wildlife and recreation and helping with climate change targets. Trees soak up carbon - and in the longer-term, those trees can be harvested to create wood products, which store carbon, as well as helping to stimulate local economies."

Confor has been very active in campaigning to highlight the role tree planting can play in reducing future flood risks. There was a detailed discussion on the subject at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry in February, when the Forestry and Flooding report was launched. Confor has been asked to give evidence to the series of parliamentary inquiries into reducing flood risks, has worked with the chair of the APPGF to ask a parliamentary question and delivered positive coverage of the subject in a wide range of media outlets.

Please encourage everyone to sign the petition, as 100,000 signatures in six months (by June 29th) means the topic will be considered for debate in Parliament.