Woodland Trust calls for woodland surveys that take losses into account

Government figures showing an annual loss of tree area twice the size of Heathrow Airport have led a leading charity to call for an overhaul of "misleading" woodland surveys.

Woodland Trust filleted recent figures from the Government and other experts to find tree cover in England was even worse than we thought. The charity did the maths on tree hectares from reports published this summer to reach its stark conclusion.

First, a long-awaited report in July from the Independent Panel on Forestry insisted woodland cover in England be increased from 10 to 15 per cent by 2060. A Government report on the same day reckoned 1,500ha of woodland had been felled each year for a decade.

This equalled an area more than twice the size of Heathrow airport. With only 2,600ha of woodland planted during the last planting season, according to national figures, overall tree cover was alarmingly small, said the trust.

Head of conservation Austin Brady said: "England needs to up its game in terms of woodland expansion. The responsibility to facilitate this on a large scale must lie with the Government, as recommended by the Independent Panel on Forestry.

"It is also clear there are gaps in the information needed to accurately measure expansion. The annual figures reported by the Forestry Commission currently reveal only the areas planted. Without figures for woodland loss, any apparent increase is likely to be misleading."

Policy director Hilary Allison said: "Following the Government's stated welcome intention to take prompt action on Ash dieback last week, we expect a continuation of this recognition of the importance of our forests, woods and trees and of our natural environment."

The Forestry Commission did not comment.

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