More investment in public forests and more protection of ancient woodlands are two of the main messages in the 4 July 2012 final report from the independent Panel on Forestry on England’s forests and woods. The panel was set up last year after the Government cancelled its plans to sell off the nation’s forests. The findings are welcomed by the Chilterns Conservation Board (CCB), which looks after the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), where some of the country’s most valuable woodlands are located. However the findings of the panel are 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 AONB.
The panel makes many recommendations on the basis that the country needs more woods because 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 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 CCB 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 who want to plant more trees. ‘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,’ Mike Fox concluded. The full report from the forestry panel can be read here.
The Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) was designated in 1965, covers 833 sq kms (326 sq miles) stretching from Goring, in Oxfordshire, to near Hitchin, in Hertfordshire, and has a resident population of 80,000. It is one of 38 AONBs in England and Wales. The Conservation Board was set up following the passing of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000, to conserve and enhance the natural beauty and increase awareness and understanding of the Chilterns AONB. The Board, which also aims to foster the social and economic well being of local communities, is supported by all local authorities in the area and by Natural England, The National Trust and The Chiltern Society. For more information about the AONB or the Conservation Board call 01844 355500, email email@example.com , vist www.chilternsaonb.org or Twitter www.twitter.com/chilternsAONB.