Government advises that tree planting remains at the heart of its ambitious environmental programme and has committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000ha per year by 2025. Forestry is a devolved matter therefore it also needs to work closely with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to agree how the combined efforts can meet UK-wide tree-planting targets and net-zero emissions by 2050. Governments across the board also need to work closely with communities and landowners and managers alike to ensure both targets are met.
The £640m Nature for Climate Fund is targeted at planting more than 40m trees and restoring 35,000ha of peatland in England.
Government advises that the England Tree Strategy will set out how it plans to accelerate woodland creation, but also, importantly, how to manage and protect the trees already in existence. The strategy is also intended to ensure that the right tree is planted in the right place, and for the right reason.
RICS would like to see the creation of economic systems that provide long-term income streams from development, forestry and ecosystem services, and that produce capital values in woodland equal to or greater than agricultural values.
To encourage private investment in trees and woodland creation, RICS suggests the creation of an industry framework and accompanying standards that outline how to assess the value of both natural and social capital and the provision of ecosystem services that flow from the establishment of new woodland creation and that has recognition and buy-in from the sector. This would have the added benefit of facilitating cross-comparison in the sector.
We would also like to see the development of mechanisms that support the development of real markets for the benefits provided by woodland creation; this includes both timber and non-timber products and the creation of a planning landscape where development mixed with both new woodland planting and existing plantation forestry is encouraged. Developments such as tourist accommodation, woodland burials, outdoor leisure have all proved successful. Further developments of woodland business parks and woodland homes would have a significant impact on woodland planting. We also encourage the promotion of the long-term prospects of investment in the sector to appeal to investors who need long-term sustainable returns.
“RICS would like to see the creation of economic systems that provide long-term income streams from development, forestry and ecosystem services”
RICS would like to see national planning policy changed from a protectionist stance on woodlands to one enabling development in woodlands to broaden uses and create new income streams. One option to deal with some of the regulatory barriers to woodland creation would be to simplify the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process where fertilised and/or drained agricultural land and reclaimed land are proposed to be planted with woodland.
To support natural processes, RICS suggests removing the generic cross-compliance requirement to keep land in good agricultural condition in the belief that it could release a portion of a landholding to support the natural establishment of trees and woodland. We recommend seeking out, and learning from, areas of natural regeneration. Where there is no natural regeneration, we believe there is potential for a plan or mechanism to assist this to occur. We also recommend that deer management is carried out across the country and suggest the consideration and study of the risks, benefits and impact on the rural economy of large-scale rewilding schemes, such as the Knepp Castle Estate, Sussex.
Other initiatives to increase woodland creation and tree cover include promoting opportunities for carbon capture where an income stream could be created with a viable market for carbon capture to help increase woodland creation.
We highlighted feedback from our members that the current grant process is complex and slow, and the opportunities for its improvement that would assist in facilitating more woodland creation. In addition, there’s a need for fiscal incentives that help not just to create new woodlands, but also to incentivise, encourage and assist more active management of existing woodlands.
“There’s a need for fiscal incentives that help not just to create new woodlands, but also to incentivise, encourage and assist more active management of existing woodlands”
Long-term income streams from development, forestry and ecosystem services are needed and the promotion of forestry development policies where lodges, leisure facilities, commercial and residential uses are provided in a new woodland environment should be encouraged. Agroforestry and its myriad of benefits should be more strongly promoted and there should be consideration of how it will be integrated into the ELM (Environmental Land Management) scheme. We highlighted the challenges that ash dieback will pose which will require assistance to substantially diversify woodland tree species and within-species genetic diversity.
Related competencies include: Environmental management, Land use and diversification, Sustainability