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Official Forestry Commission planting figures: Confirm lowest in a generation

The Forestry Commission have released their official planting figures today

The Forestry Statistics and Forestry Facts & Figures document (Chapter 1, page 24-29) show only 700 hectares of woodland was planted in England last year. The lowest level of tree planting and woodland creation in England for a generation.

Missing planting targets

Woodland cover in England stands at just 10%. The UK is one of the least wooded countries in Europe. The Government’s aspiration is to work with the forestry sector to achieve 12% woodland cover by 2060. This means an average planting rate of 5000ha a year.

This is all the more shocking against the backdrop of the growing evidence of the importance of trees and woods in tackling air pollution, improving water quality and offering scope to deliver natural flood management, not to mention what they offer for wildlife and their productive potential for the rural economy.

The threats to our woods and trees

Poor planting rates, plus woodland losses and weak protection of ancient woods mean deforestation is highly likely in England, with some areas of woodland felled or destroyed and not replanted. Despite repeated requests; there is little effort from the Government to accurately quantify the cumulative losses of woodland resulting from planning, infrastructure, tree disease and intensive land use.

Coupled with the new and worryingly low planting rates which look like being at an all-time low, this puts our government in no position to stand on the international stage calling for emerging economies to stop the destruction and degradation of their forests when our own are in a state of serious decline.

The challenges of tree disease will see many thousands of trees lost from our cherished landscapes. In a few short years the dreadful impact of Dutch Elm Disease will be repeated but this time on millions of native ash trees across the country.

What we need to do now

We must increase the number and variety of native trees we are planting right now if we are to have any hope of heading off the serious environmental degradation faced by the countryside.

The Woodland Trust is committed to spearheading a project to plant 64 million new native trees in woods, hedges and community schemes over the next decade – one for every person in the UK.

We are also hoping the Government’s forthcoming framework for its 25 year plan for nature will herald a fresh approach, and genuinely new and practical solutions to address these issues.

You can help increase woodland cover across the UK with our tree pack giveaway for schools and communities or download our free autumn pack and get outdoors