For those who have an interest in Small Woodlands in Wales, we have submitted a response to the planning policy consultation that closed on Friday.
Whilst we supported the overall framework which is founded on good forward looking principles, as a charity concerned with the sustainable management and use of woodlands we however felt it was inadequately elaborated with regard to the special qualities and requirements of woodlands, their use and management.
We for instance found it surprising that the framework was better developed with regard to intangible environmental characteristics, whilst the very tangible 15% of Wales’ land cover that our woodlands and forestry represent was undeveloped.
The pigeon-holing of woodland-related businesses as either rural or woodlands as simply a resource that needs protection is an inadequate reflection of their importance and potential and can lead to difficulties and misunderstandings between woodland managers, planners and communities.
At a minimum, Wales needs a framework that acknowledges and facilitates the following range of pressures and opportunities with regard to its woodlands:
1. Valuing woodlands equally for their social, environmental and economic aspects and potentials
2. The fact that woodlands are living entities and that embracing change is all part of understanding and achieving healthy woodlands
3. The place of active management in order to maintain woodland health and progression – understanding that communities can find this challenging, as it will involve superficially destructive practices involving chainsaws and other machinery
4. The stresses and pressures which are placed on our trees and woodlands which will lead to greater change in future – and the fact that managing these changes is likely to be very costly as well as leading to significant landscape change. Ash Die Back is likely to be significantly more challenging than Dutch Elm Disease was.
5. Social Forestry is a growing and is a really important movement that is making a real and measurable contribution to improving the health and wellbeing of our population and should also lead to healthier woodlands
6. The really important role that is played by coppice and the parlous state of 90+% pf our historic coppice woodlands. Restored coppice can provide jobs, products, carbon sequestration and replace the plastics in our lives.
7. The need for appropriate structures in woodlands to facilitate their use and management (i.e., to protect people, wood products, production and equipment) and the need for guidance around those structures, how to vary the approaches depending on the sensitivity of the individual woodland site.
8. Awareness raising for planners, woodland owners and managers to support all of the above.
Finally, our response relates to those woodlands that are largely outwith the forestry sector. Forestry has very effective advocates in organisations such as Confor and whilst we largely support their actions and activities, our remit is different and relates to those woodlands that a generally outside the forestry sector’s management and interest due to their size, nature (generally broadleaves) and other management challenges that mean that large scale forestry objectives are generally not realistic or desirable.