Rate of National Forest creation takes nosedive

The rate at which the National Forest is being created has dropped from more than 500ha a year at its peak in the early 2000s to "100ha a year at a push", John Everitt, chief executive of the National Forest Company that oversees the creation of the forest, has told New Scientist.

The article ascribes the decline to rising land prices and landowners having more options for putting their land to use, "including tourism spin-offs from the forest itself", pointing out that the biggest decrease in planting came after 2006 when incentives were withdrawn due to changes in EU regulations.

Everitt added that resources must now also be focused on managing the maturing forest, some of which dates back to 1991. "If we don't manage the forest now we're going to be left with very dark, dense, not particularly productive woodland," he warned. "We will lose the opportunity to maximise the economic opportunities."

He also told The Observer that the £60m of public money that has been spent on the project to date "is the equivalent of just two miles of three-lane motorway or one mile of HS2 - it is peanuts, incredible value for money". He added that the forest has already attracted nearly £1bn of inward investment, prompted hundreds of new tourism, leisure and wood-based businesses, and stimulated house prices.

So far around half of the proposed 17 million trees to create the forest spanning parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire have been planted. The aim is to raise the level of tree cover over the 500sq km area to 33 per cent.

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