Small Woods Association Response to the Defra Command Paper “Health and Harmony” – May 2018

The government has produced two major papers in the early part of 2018 that aim to pave the way towards post-Brexit land management policy, both of which have implications for Small Woodlands and Small Woodland Owners.  Small Woods Association have responded to these consultations and our submission is attached. (Small Woods Health and Harmony Consultation response 8-5-18)  The submission is based on the following principles.

Woodland management policy should be objective-led, i.e., it should be designed to achieve a clear outcome that delivers benefits to woodland health and harmony, and the economic, social and environmental goods that flow from them.  It is critical that these three elements of sustainable development, economy, environment and society are on an equal footing within any support arrangements, as to favour one over the other would be to unbalance the policy.   

An integrated approach based on the Common Countryside Policy principle would necessarily lead to more woodland work being done by farmers, both for woods on farms and potentially beyond.  However, we are very aware that most woodland management is currently undertaken by non-farmers; i.e., by woodland owners, managers and contractors, and this is likely to remain the case, for reason of skills, equipment and qualifications (including the need to ensure any work carried out is safe and covered by the appropriate forestry “tickets”).  They are also more likely to have the skills required to devise a woodland management plan and to be able to undertake their implementation. 

Within this integrated approach, SWA supports the policy direction to have a single land management menu available for all land managers, regardless of who they might be.  All land managers, including farmers, woodland managers and those managing for other objectives (such as biodiversity, soil conservation or flood defence), should have access to a range of options that cover the full range of land use public goods in England.   

Specifically, in relation to the nature of small woodlands the national menu of options should include: 

  • Management for sustainable production – conversion of existing unmanaged woodland into productive multi-use woodland is an ongoing process, which is very challenging to start when woodlands are unmanaged.  A one off grant to bring woodlands into management, that enabled a planned approach, which introduced thinning cycles according to a sustainable and locally appropriate management system, such as Continuous Cover Forestry, along with the introduction of infrastructure, such as hard standing.  We would also support a declining schedule of payments that recognise the ongoing costs of this stage of management. 

 

  • Size limits set the threshold for support at a level that can benefit small woodlands, for example 1ha. 

 

  • Promotion of collaboration – the scheme should be designed with collaboration in mind, with specific measures to facilitate equipment and skills sharing, as well as support for owners to collaborate on management. 

 

  • Equipment for sharing – small woodlands are by their nature not of a size to justify investment in the full range of machinery needed for their management. Hence, we would propose support for equipment purchase where it was to be in shared use across a number of sites.  

 

  • Shared forester approaches – we propose support for woodland management undertaken by a shared or ward forester across a number of sites in a number of different ownerships. 

Read the full response here: Small Woods Health and Harmony Consultation response 8-5-18