Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Press Notice

Session 2009-10

19 March 2010




The National Forest-a national success story

Fifteen years on from its inception, The National Forest is successfully delivering tangible environmental, economic and social benefits across a 200 square mile swathe of the Midlands, says the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee at the House of Commons. Lessons from this experience need to be disseminated more widely and the government should give long term support to enable the project to deliver its full potential.

Launching the report of their short inquiry, EFRA committee chairman Rt.Hon. Michael Jack MP said, “This report highlights the opportunity for DEFRA to lead on replicating the success of The National Forest in other parts of England. It’s achievements2-in combining the aforestation of derelict mining sites with the creation of a new leisure industry which is both biodiverse and sustainable-are remarkable. At a challenging time for the economy the project shows just how much forest development can be the catalyst for both job creation and inward investment.

“This success has been built on commitment and skills of all The National Forest’s partner organisations. Strong leadership has enabled the project to deliver significant multiple benefits to an area that had previously been in economic and environmental decline,” added Mr Jack.

Nevertheless, the cross party group of MPs warns ministers that the full potential of the project will not be realised unless a more systematic approach is taken to disseminating the experience of The National Forest across England. To remedy this Defra should set out a detailed plan within the next 18 months for sharing the lessons learned by the National Forest Company more widely.

Mr Jack adds, “Growing a forest is a long term project that requires the continued engagement and enthusiasm of many local and national partners. The National Forest offers a strong model for tree planting at the kind of pace required to mitigate climate change, while balancing other environmental social and economic aims. The project deserves strong commitment from Government, including limited financial support, for many years to come.”

To that end the Committee also concludes:

• The 300 hectare limit on land area that may be held by the National Forest Company (NFC) at any one time is unnecessarily restrictive and there is also scope to make the purposes for which the NFC may acquire land more flexible. Defra should address both these matters at its next review of the NFC Financial Memorandum;

•  HM Revenue and Customs and Defra should publish clear and comprehensive guidance about inheritance tax (IHT) relief available for woodland and disseminate this widely within The National Forest and beyond. They should also examine whether the IHT regime deters individuals from taking up grants or continuing participation in woodland schemes or other long-term environmentally beneficial government schemes;

• DEFRA and DECC should review the impact of the Code of Good Practice for Forest Carbon Projects within one year of its inception in order to evaluate the scope to develop tradable carbon credits for UK forestry projects;

• Priority should be given to improving public transport access to The National Forest for all segments of society.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. Further details about this inquiry can be found at:

http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/environment__food_and_rural_affairs

2. Key achievements of The National Forest in its first 15 years include:

Environmental:

• Planting more than 7 million trees and  increasing  the area’s tree cover from 6% to  18% ;

• Creating nearly five and a half thousand hectares of new Forest - 64% of this through grants to landowners and 14% (759 hectares) through directly land acquisition;

Economic:

• Leveraging inward investment to the Forest, including over  £40 million for forest projects by the National Forest Company’s partners as well as £44 million of Government grants to the company;

• Creating or safeguarding 250 jobs in forestry and woodland businesses;

• Spurring and supporting the local tourism industry which is now worth more than £270 million and employs over 4,000 people;

Social:

• Improving access to nature for the 10 million people living within an hour’s travel of the Forest and 200,000 local residents;

• Providing a range of visitor sites and facilities for leisure and recreation (e.g. Conkers, Rosliston Forestry Centre, Snibston Discovery Centre);

• Opening 85% of National Forest sites to the public: 1,731 hectares of fully open sites have been created in the last five years alone.

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