MPs to discuss forestry and flood prevention

MPs have welcomed the opportunity to discuss the relationship between tree planting and flood prevention at the next meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry (APPGF). 

With concerns growing about the performance of flood defences following December's heavy rains, Confor has organised the meeting to debate the important role of natural flood management, including tree planting.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, vice-chair of the APPGF and MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, has called for the Government to show massively greater ambition on tree planting targets to reduce flood risks - suggesting 200 million new trees as a suitable target during the current parliament. 

The APPGF will hear about the science behind planting trees, particularly the ability of new woodland in the uplands to have a significant effect on water flows downstream - helping to protect communities from the kind of devastating floods seen in the last few weeks.

Speakers will include Tom Nisbet of Forest Research, an expert on the relationship between forestry and water, and Andrew Heald, Technical Director of Confor. Mr Nisbet wrote the report The Role of Productive Woodlands in Water Management - published in November 2014 - and Mr Heald is producing an updated document on forestry and flooding for the APPGF meeting.

Chris Davies, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire and Chair of the APPGF, said: "This is a timely opportunity for the Group to consider the important role of tree planting in reducing future flood risks - and to listen more to the science behind the headlines."

Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP added: "Research shows tree planting can have an impact on water flows within a year, but we need to look to the long-term and try to prevent the constant recurrence of these catastrophic events. Tree planting as part of natural flood management programmes is absolutely crucial to making real progress on this."

Representatives from The Woodland Trust and Forestry Commission England will also attend at the APPGF event.

Andrew Heald said: "There is a tremendous opportunity to ensure that far more trees are planted in upland areas to reduce the impact of floods on downstream communities. The discussion now should focus on where to plant these trees and how to fund that - and Confor's report will make suggestions on how we start that process."

Confor and The Woodland Trust have already called for a meeting on the subject with Environment Secretary Liz Truss, who will be sent a copy of the new Confor report.

There is also a petition before Parliament on making tree planting a priority to reduce flooding, which has received around 26,000 signatures in less than three weeks.

The APPGF on Forestry and Flooding is on February 2, from 11.45am, followed by lunch at 12.45pm, in Committee Room N at Portcullis House, Westminster.