The Woodland Trust hosted a reception in parliament this week to launch their latest report‘Life’s better with trees: towards a charter for trees, woods and people’. Speakers included Charles Walker MP, Shadow DEFRA spokesman Barry Gardiner MP, Roger Williams MP and newly appointed Woodland Trust Chief Executive Beccy Speight.
The document sets out the clear benefits to all from trees, woods and forests, both in terms of offering life essentials like clean air, water, food and fuel, and in terms of their place in UK landscapes, literature and livelihoods.
The report looks to the future and makes the clear case for the introduction of a charter for trees, woods and people. It also sets out a number of eye catching policy priorities ahead of the upcoming general election in 2015, including: a tree for every child; trees enhancing new developments and Garden Cities; real protection for ancient woods; and a call to enshrine the Government’s tree cover target into legislation. A full copy of the report can be downloaded here.
Charles Walker MP, who hosted the Reception on behalf of the Woodland Trust, kicked off proceedings with an impassioned speech about the historic importance of woods and trees, and the need to do more to protect and enhance our woodlands.
Barry Gardiner MP, the Shadow DEFRA spokesman said it was a ‘great’ report and highlighted 3 areas where he felt the Trust should be pushing all politicians to go further.
“The report said that ancient woodland could not be used in off-setting, but it could be the beneficiary of off-setting. Ancient woodland should be in the mix but it should be the sacrifice”
He said the report’s aim to increase tree cover in England to 12% ‘did not go far enough’ and should reflect the independent panel’s ambition for 15%.
Finally he added that it was important to “look not just at the volume of trees but the placement of them”. He said Professor Bateman’s recent report from the Natural Capital Committee showed if woodland was just planted for timber exploitation the economic benefit was negative £56 million. If it was planted for wider uses like air quality improvement and located close to cities for leisure use then the benefit was a positive £450 million.
“A huge swing around in terms of the value it provides in terms of the value it provides to the population”
Roger Williams MP highlighted the importance of trees across Britain and said there are some trees which have no form of protection which parliament needed to reflect on. He added:
“Actually when you bring trees together and they form woodland that is when they really do come to support all the things that we find precious in our ecosystems.”
Mr Williams praised the work of the Woodland Trust and the report adding: “I’m sure we would all like to sign up to many of these things.”
He added he was ‘disappointed’ that there was no Bill or draft bill in the recent Queen’s speech, despite the recommendations of the panel report.
He concluded by saying how important it was to get planting right especially around new housing developments in light of the new Garden City proposals:
“In terms of development I think sometimes trees or landscaping is put in as an afterthought, but actually the landscaping and the tree planting should be a real integral part of any development and ensure that it is not something that is left to the last moment”.
Beccy Speight CEO of Woodland Trust said:
“It is enormously inspiring to be reminded by people of the importance of trees and woods and how that transcends the political divide actually.
“Trees are utterly bound up with our identity. That was reinforced for us by the success of Trafalgar, the Jubilee Woods project and we hope that our current First World War centenary planting will absolutely reinforce that, with its echoes of a soldier’s longing for that home landscape amidst the destruction that was so graphically illustrated by artists like Nash”
She concluded by explaining the importance of the report and the call for a charter ahead of the election manifestos next year:
“It’s my honour as the new Chief Executive to call on all of you to join with us in developing a new charter that will help place the UK and a vital part of its heritage in far better heart as the country pulls out of recession, because we believe that a thriving recovery for trees and woods, and a thriving recovery for people are utterly bound up together and they always have been”.