Report labels the National Forest a success story

19 March 2010

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.

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 achievements - 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."

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, the report says.

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

Image: iStockphoto

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