Rory joined Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson MP, former Forestry Commission Chair Lord Clark of Windermere, and George Webb, Chairman of Confor (the national member organisation promoting forests and woodland) at a conference in London last week, where he contributed to a wide-ranging debate on the future of forestry, including issues around protection of ancient woodlands, boosting economic growth and jobs in the sector, and of course the findings and recommendations of the Independent Forestry Panel’s (IFP) report into the future of England’s public and private forest estate. The debate came in the same week that Rory Stewart MP wrote to the Defra Secretary of State with a formal response to the IFP’s report on behalf of his constituency forestry and woodlands ‘think-tank’. The group are endorsing the recommendations of the IFP.
The constituency think-tank – whose membership is drawn from both the public and private sector, and from charitable organisations – believe that the public forest estate must remain intact, and that government needs to do more to protect and restore ancient woodlands. It has earmarked the future availability and security of wood supply as a key concern which must be addressed, with set targets and detailed overviews. It asks for more details on the IFP’s proposed longer-term policies, arguing that long-term contracts in the sector should be pursued.
Rory said: “The constituency think-tank fully endorses the findings of the IFP report. Woodland creation targets are to be welcomed, but much more detail is needed on a county if not a constituency basis. A long-term strategy should underpin any detailed planning, but particularly the type of woodland to be planted is to be given extremely careful thought. Particularly in Cumbria, the planning of future woodland creation and usage must take into account the existing cultural landscape, and a balance of existing usage of land. I am now concentrating on getting together a Cumbrian strategy and vision for woodlands, to accompany the IFP’s recommendations and to provide a guide for implementing the IFP’s recommendations in a way that is relevant and sustainable to Cumbria and Cumbrians.”