Our response to Defra’s England Tree Strategy Consultation

Thank you to Small Woods members who joined in the discussion that helped formulate our response to the England Tree Strategy consultation, which closed on September 11.

The aim of the Strategy is to set out how to significantly increase tree establishment and woodland creation to support nature recovery, clean growth and the commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The consultation also sought input on how to: protect existing trees and woodland; bring more woodlands into management; use them to support the economy; and engage more people with trees and woodlands.

The Strategy proposals were considered during two online WoodsMeet sessions and members’ contributions were fed into Small Woods’ response, which you can read here >

Overall, we have emphasised the following key areas of concern:

  • The role of the woodland owner and manager needs to be brought to the fore in the development of woodland management policy.
  • For example, a level playing field needs to be established regarding the new ELMS incentives, which currently exclude small woodlands.
  • Ensure that the need for woodland management is understood by policy makers at all levels.
  • Assurance Frameworks – UKFS is too demanding for small woodlands.  An alternative light touch approach is required, such as that currently under development through FSC.
  • Coppice restoration – New initiatives are needed to further develop the coppice sector, and maximise its potential to provide widespread environmental, economic, and social benefits.
  • Skills – New funding is needed for skills and training for safe operation, as well as increased professional capacity at all levels.
  • Infrastructure.  Well managed woodlands require infrastructure. This is poorly understood by the planning and regulation system.
  • Complementary and coherent regulatory frameworks – The relative low priority afforded to woodlands in national frameworks leads to a low level of protection, for example for Ancient Woodlands.
  • Long-term consistent policy and financial support – the sector needs certainty.

The final concerns we expressed were whether there had been wide enough consultation; the strategy needs wide population buy in and a need to understand what the status would be and whether the strategy and its provisions would have teeth.

In addition to the covering letter, which sets out our main concerns, detailed supplementary comments to the proposals were also submitted in response to the consultation. These can be read here >

Once all feedback has been considered, the new England Tree Strategy is expected to be published later this year, setting out the Government’s forestry policy through to 2050.