Thursday 5 July 2012
More investment in public forests and more protection of ancient woodlands are two of the main messages in this week's report from the independent panel on England’s forests and woods, set up after the Government cancelled its plans to sell off the nation's forests last year. These findings are strongly welcomed by the Chilterns Conservation Board, which looks after the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which has some of the country's most valuable woodlands.
The findings of the panel are also a direct challenge to the Government which plans to bulldoze ancient woodland to make way for the HS2 high speed railway as it crosses the Chilterns AONB.
The panel makes many wide-ranging recommendations on the basis that the country needs more woods as they are good for the environment, the economy and the country’s physical health and well-being. It also says that public forests should not be sold off and the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman has confirmed this will not happen.
Steve Rodrick, Chief Officer of the Chilterns Conservation Board, welcomed the panel’s findings:
"The panel has taken its time to deliver a thoughtful and well researched report which confirms that the country needs both public forests and more private woodlands. Trees and woods offer so many benefits at such modest cost that I really hope the government will respond positively and invest more in forestry despite the recession."
Mike Fox, Chairman of the Board, added:
"We particularly welcome the recommendation that the value of woods to society should be fully recognised. We call on the Secretary of State for Transport to make sure the plans for High Speed 2 avoid damaging irreplaceable ancient woodland."
The panel's report suggests that an enhanced Forest Service should receive an additional £7 million per annum mostly to expand its work with community groups and landowners which want to plant more trees. Mike Fox said:
"Surely this can be easily afforded as the Government is currently spending more than this every 10 days on the highly damaging high speed railway."