New Tree Strategy will need 'unprecedented rise in afforestation'

Confor has welcomed the recognition that the new England Tree Strategy will require “an unprecedented increase in afforestation” to deliver on its objectives.

The Strategy, the first since 2007, was launched today, marking the start of a 12-week consultation process. Confor will issue a detailed response and you can respond here

Defra said: "Subject to consultation, the new strategy will set out policies to expand tree cover, support woodland management and increase public engagement with trees and woodlands. It will help ensure the government's tree planting commitment – to increase tree planting to 30,000 hectares per year across the UK by 2025 - is delivered, working closely with the devolved administrations, communities and landowners to do so."   

The consultation asks for views on:  

  • how to expand, protect and improve our public and private trees and woodlands,  
  • the increased role that trees and woodlands can play in supporting the economy, 
  • how best to further connect people to nature, and 
  • the most effective way in which trees and woodlands can be created and managed to help combat climate change. 

Caroline Ayre, National Manager (England) for Confor, said:

"This consultation comes at a crucial time as the Government develops its plans for a Green Recovery from Covid-19.

“It’s welcome that the planting target of 30,000 hectares of new woodland per year by 2025 - laid down by Confor in April 2019 and adopted by Government - is front and centre. I am also pleased to see the recognition that 'an unprecedented increase in afforestation in England' will be needed.

"It is also great to see the economic value of forestry is prominent in the consultation, as well as the need to manage more of our existing woodlands much better."

Confor recognises the 30,000 hectare planting target will be very challenging to meet, after statistics last week showed only 13,460 hectares were planted in the UK in 2019/20 - 80 per cent of that in Scotland.

“Scotland proves that achieving ambitious targets means planting all types of woodland, including large, modern, productive forests," said Mrs Ayre.

“England planted only 230 hectares of productive conifer forests in 2019/20, a very disappointing figure. To get anywhere near the 30,000ha target, the UK Government must plant large, modern productive forests in England and recognise the enormous economic as well as environmental benefits (including tackling climate change) they can deliver. 

“The previous tree strategy goes back to when Labour were in office and it did not deliver on its goals. 13 years on, the Government has a chance to fix that and produce a strategy which can deliver for our economy, environment and people.”

Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith, said:  “This consultation will help inform a keystone strategy which will be vital for helping us deliver the government’s tree planting commitment, our commitment to the recovery of nature and reaching net zero emissions by 2050.   

“But, we need input from the sector and public. I encourage everyone to give their views to design a tree strategy that delivers the maximum benefits for our environment for generations to come.”

Read the Defra news release here