A new Parliament: a new opportunity for woods and trees

The Prime Minister’s failure to secure a majority at the General Election has made for a turbulent start to the new Parliament.

A deal has now been done to secure a ‘confidence and supply’ arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party and the Queen has delivered the Government’s legislative programme for the next two years.

Brexit and DEFRA

With an estimated 80% of legislation affecting the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) coming from the EU, the next parliamentary session will be crucial for the environment. There's a huge opportunity to make good on the Conservatives’ manifesto commitment to "be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it".

Brexit was the focus of the Queen’s Speech and large amounts of legislation will be necessary to make this happen. A key part of this is the proposed new Agriculture Bill which must provide clarity for landowners and signal that rewarding public benefit will be at the heart of the new approach, promoting far better interplay between farming and forestry in the future than has been the case in the past.

Agroforesty Conference

Last week’s sell-out Agroforestry conference organised in partnership with the Soil Association and the Royal Forestry Society, demonstrated the appetite among landowners for exploring the opportunities in this area.

Greener Alliance

As the UK prepares to leave the EU,  as part of the Greener UK alliance of environmental NGOs we're working to ensure that the range of EU legislation which helps to protect the UK’s cherished landscapes, wildlife and natural environment is safeguarded and, wherever possible, enhanced.

Manifesto commitments

The Government must now press on with its manifesto commitment to improve protection for ancient woodland. This includes demonstrating that lessons have been learned from Phase 1 of the controversial HS2 route – which condemned 63 ancient woods to loss or damage – as the Government progresses with Phase 2, which looks set to impact a minimum of 24 ancient woods.

The Housing White Paper published in the last Parliament proposed to strengthen protection for this precious, irreplaceable habitat and more than 15,000 of our supporters responded to the consultation by calling for changes to be made to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to ensure this aspiration is translated into action.

The Government must also now progress its very welcome manifesto commitments to safeguard street trees valued by communities and increase planting rates as part of its intention to help ensure that our towns and cities are healthy, well-designed and well-tended places, and to take action against poor air quality in urban areas.

Unlike many of the more controversial aspects of the manifesto, these are policies that MPs of all sides can support and there is no reason not to proceed with them swiftly. As laid out in a previous blog , several of the main parties made welcome tree-related manifesto commitments in the run-up to the Election.

We are working behind the scenes to help deliver on these commitments, and will be exploring how to kick-start the debate on protecting ancient woodland given the crowded parliamentary agenda, at the next meeting of the All-Party Group on Ancient Woodland and Veteran Trees, which is open to all members of both Houses of Parliament and will take place on 11th July.

Read our six priorities for the new Parliament and encourage your MPs to attend the APPG meeting