Confor welcomes floods report - but highlights need for detail on tree planting

9 September 2016

Confor has welcomed the recognition by the UK Government that natural flood management  needs to play a bigger part in preventing disastrous flooding in the future, but is worried that the lack of detail on tree planting could mean a major missed opportunity.

The report of the National Flood Resilience Review yesterday accepted that “Engineered hard flood defences can only ever be part the solution” and highlighted projects like Slow the Flow in Pickering, North Yorkshire, where tree planting and in-forest dams have had a substantial impact on reducing floods. 

The report also promised a pioneer project in the river catchments of Cumbria, one of the areas worst affected by floods in late 2015 and early 2016, to look at “managing whole river catchments intelligently”, including the role of natural flood management. 

Andrew Heald, Technical Director of Confor, said: “UK and international evidence is very, very clear that planting trees strategically can slow the flow of water ways and have a very positive impact on reducing flood risks as part of a natural flood management plan. 

“While we are pleased that the role of natural flood management has been recognised, there needs to be more explicit mention of the role that tree planting can play. The evidence of their benefit is clear, and we need to be planting now to protect communities for decades to come. 

“And it is not just about long-term benefits; research has shown that trees can have an impact on water flows within just a year of being planted. Those trees, if planted to produce future supplies of wood, can also help reinvigorate rural economies and reduce reliance on subsidies – vital as we move to a world outside of the Common Agricultural Policy” 

He added: “Confor looks forward to working with partners on the pioneer project in Cumbria to ensure the benefits of tree planting in reducing flood risks are fully considered.” 

Mr Heald produced Confor’s discussion paper Forestry and Flooding earlier this year, which highlighted the Pickering project and the important role of natural flood management, building on an earlier research paper, The Role of Productive Woodlands in Water Management