As Government announces the formation of an independent panel of forestry experts as part of the planned review of forestry policy in England, the Woodland Trust is challenging both the group and Government to a six point test for effectiveness and accountability.
The Woodland Trust welcomes the opportunity to be part of the independent panel of experts charged with examining England’s forestry policy in the light of the recent debate on public forest estate sales, and is pleased it has a broad remit which includes issues about which the Trust cares passionately.
These include ancient woodland protection, restoration of planted ancient woodland sites, woodland creation as a means of delivering significant benefits to society, public access to forests, community woodland ownership, and the future role of the Forestry Commission as both regulator and enabler, working to help all sectors increase woodland cover in the UK, which has one of the lowest levels in Europe.
It is imperative however that the process of the panel's review is both robust and accountable, and that it delivers strong recommendations around these key issues, on which Government then acts.
Sue Holden, Chief Executive of the Woodland Trust, said: "If Government is truly listening, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to advance the cause of woodland protection, expansion and restoration.
"Despite this being a nationally sensitive issue, the panel needs to be bold and not be a talking shop. Its work has to be meaningful, so we are looking for strong recommendations for action from it, on which Government will be held to account.
"There is an equally strong onus on both the panel to be effective and on the Government to listen and implement. This is going to be a challenge."
The Trust is setting out six tests for the panel and for the government, as a measure of success:
The panel should build on the numerous reviews on aspects of forestry policy undertaken over the past 10 years and not attempt to reinvent the wheel;
The panel should be bold and decisive in its recommendations and set an agenda for change, not one based on the status quo;
The panel should focus particularly its attention on the areas where public passions and concerns were raised during the recently abandoned public consultation, such as access and the protection and restoration of ancient woods;
Government should provide an in-depth response to the panel’s recommendations, indicating specifically which ones it will adopt and the reasons for those it rejects;
Government should not use the panel as a reason to delay current commitments to action (e.g. Woodland Carbon Task Force);
- Other government departments such as DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) must buy into the recommendations and Defra will need to be seen to be working to achieve this.
Panel releases Final Report
Our response to the Panel's interim report
The Panel's 'Call for Views'
The 'call for views' launched by the Panel in May 2011 received more than 40,000 replies - over 4,000 of you took the time to contribute thoughtful and considered responses using our electronic form.
Thank you for speaking up!
Read our formal submission to the Panel
Defra's official announcement
Why is ancient woodland special?