Forestry industry body Confor slams latest tree planting figures as "pathetic"

Tree planting in England has fallen to a historic low, with only 525 hectares of new woodland created in the year to the end of March.

Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC-BY-ND-20)
Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC-BY-ND-20)

The statistics newly published by the Forestry Commission showed planting almost at a standstill in late 2016 and early 2017, with only 23ha of woodland planted in the whole of England between October and December 2016, and a further 43ha planted in January-March.

"These figures are pathetic - we thought things couldn’t get any worse, but they have," forestry industry body Confor's chief executive Stuart Goodall said.

"Planting 37 hectares over three months would keep one person employed for just one day a week – over the whole of England. This failure is destroying rural jobs and threatening the viability of our hard-pressed tree nurseries."

He added: "It is also punching holes in Government targets for tackling climate change. Planting trees is a cost-effective way to lock-up carbon as recognised by Treasury when it recently awarded over £19m for additional tree planting. However, there appears to be little point in throwing money at a system that is failing so abjectly."

Goodall blamed the shift in overseeing tree planting in England from the Forestry Commission to Natural England, which he said has led to a lack of accountability.

"None of Natural England, the Forestry Commission or the Rural Payments Agency appear to see meeting tree planting targets as their responsibility, with parts of Natural England appearing to be actively opposed to planting trees," he said.

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