Attendees

MPs: Jason McCartney; Simon Baynes; Feryal Clark; Michael Fabricant; Chris Green; Sir Oliver Heald; Mike Hill; Tony Lloyd; Cherilyn Mackrory; Navendu Mishra; Theresa Villiers.
Peers: Lord Carrington; Baroness Young of Old Scone.
Woodland Trust: Darren Moorcroft (CEO); Nick Phillips; James Cooper; Richard Barnes; Oliver Newham; Owen Pugh

1. Welcome and introduction by Acting Chair, Jason McCartney MP

Jason undertook to keep the meeting to 30 minutes.

2. Election of a new Chair and (re)election of other Vice-Chairs

For the first vote of Chair (to formally replace Alex Chalk MP), Jason handed over to Theresa Villiers; Jason was voted in as Chair (seconded by Michael Fabricant) unanimously.

Navendu Mishra, Theresa Villiers, Simon Baynes and Lord Carrington were elected as new Vice-Chairs.

Michael Fabricant and Mike Hill confirmed they would stay as Vice-Chairs (following their election at the January AGM). [Dame Cheryl Gillan MP, although not present, also remains as a Vice-Chair]

3. Review of previous meeting’s actions

Letter sent to Chancellor, reply awaited. Jason will chase with James Cartlidge MP (Rishi Sunak’s PPS) [ACTION]

Jason to speak with colleagues on the Backbench Business Committee to try and secure a debate on the England Tree Strategy. [ACTION]

4. England Tree Strategy consultation discussion (following its publication in June)

Darren Moorcroft (WT CEO) introduced the topic, explaining the importance of the England Tree Strategy. Emphasised role and value of native trees & woods – for biodiversity, people and combatting climate change. For example, oak trees support over 2,000 species and 300+ species require an oak tree exclusively to survive. Native trees are building blocks of the country. Have to be mindful of threats as well - diseases, pests and climate change, and inappropriate development.

Nick Phillips (Woodland Trust) added further detail on the consultation (closing in September) and outlined what it should deliver and balance.

The outcomes of the ETS should be balanced for nature, climate & people. It also needs to balance protection and expansion, and on the latter, the strategy should be balancing woodland expansion and more trees outside woods (such as hedges and urban trees).

Consultation has 4 key components:

  • Expanding and connecting
  • Protecting and improving
  • Connecting people to woods
  • Trees and the economy.

Woodland creation targets – need 30k ha pa until 2025, at least half native

Protection – restoration is v urgent, 80k ha in England alone. Need to keep the AW we have, record number of threats. Recent report on the condition of woods – shockingly low level of 10%, this should at least be doubled (better management)

For people – value of trees & woods is gaining recognition - eg recreation, clean water, health. More community forests need to be established. Expansion and repetition of Northern Forest elsewhere.

These values exceed market timber value alone so economy section needs to be focussed on this. One key suggestion of increasing tree nursery capacity to meet the enhanced targets - this boosts jobs, and reduces reliance on imports, so a double win.

Jason asked if a short draft response on behalf of this group be drafted and circulated in advance of the September meeting [ACTION]

5. What are the opportunities and challenges for woods and trees from the economic
recovery proposals?

Darren Moorcroft introduced, noting there are opportunities from economic recovery. Nature being at the heart is key. Right time to make right investment choices. Investments need to give us a real economic and environmental return. What better way of building green recovery than having trees at its heart.

James Cooper went in to further detail, but started by quoting Roosevelt “A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself.” £130bn value of UK forests, so are worth the investment – evidence-based policy is required.

Link have put forward £315m worth of shovel-ready” projects and WT itself has a shovel ready list worth £53m.

£40m funding mention by the Prime Minister is welcome, but only about half the green recovery narrative has been taken forward. We would like to see more on the natural environment side from the Chancellor in the autumn. News about the investment in flooding noted today. 

Concern about “radical reform” of planning – the APPG fought hard to get a tangible improvement to the NPPF, this shouldn’t be reversed. There are several reasons for planning delays that could be addressed – updating the Ancient Woodland Inventory; Local Plans reflecting national policy; more ecologists in Local Planning Authorities.

The Virtual Mass Lobby demonstrated a real appetite for action, and for UK being a world leader.

6. Update on the Environment Bill and Tree Lined Streets Bill

The Environment Bill Committee Report date is now 29 September. Dan Jarvis MP has tabled an amendment (NC19) that would put the ETS on a legal footing within the Bill, and require the setting of targets and 10-year reviews.

Chris Clarkson MP has tabled a Tree-lined Streets Bill “to require building developers to ensure that the streets of major new developments are lined with trees; and for connected purposes.” as a Ten Minute Rule Bill for Wednesday 15 July (following Prime Minister’s Questions). No further details on the wording available. The Woodland Trust has produced a 1-page summary of possibilities to include within such a Bill. [ACTION – circulate the summary – COMPLETED]

7. AOB

Simon Baynes – flying the flag for Wales, mentioning working with the Woodland Trust as a
landowner. James mentioned a 4-day programme of on-line events on sustainable farming, food policy, land management and green recovery (in the week that would have been the Royal Welsh Show). The full 4 day programme is on the Green Recovery Wales website: https://greenrecovery.wales/whats-on/

Date of next Meeting – Jason proposed 8 September 12 noon, will send a reminder.[ACTION]

Jason finished the meeting by reminding members that they need to encourage the Government’s commitment to green recovery, and nature’s role.