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More action is needed on the ground if England's tree cover is to double by the year 2050, says Richard Simmonds, c...
More action is needed on the ground if England's tree cover is to double by the year 2050, says Richard Simmonds, chairman of the Countryside Commission.

In his speech to the Association of Professional Foresters' conference at South Normanton, Derbyshire at the weekend, Mr Simmonds said that 'England must make a much bigger effort on tree planting. We have completed a national consultation process regarding a significant expansion of woodland cover. Now is the time to turn talk into action. I propose the P4 formula for increasing woodland cover: Purpose, Pragmatism, Pounds, Partnership.

'Under Purpose, we need to be aware that England's tree cover is the second lowest in Europe, at just 7.5% of land area; that we import more than 90% of our timber; that woodland has a unique capacity to absorb people, pollution and noise; and that woodland enhances the landscape and helps minimise the impact of development.

'Pragmatism deals with the question of how we are going to do it. Much of England's existing woodland is not well managed. We need to create conditions which allow land-owners, managers and experts to establish and manage woodland for the long term benefit of the landscape and the country.

'Pounds implies that the current high subsidies for food production compete ridiculously with those for tree planting. New incentives for planting must be introduced as commodity subsidies are reduced.

'Finally, Partnership. To make this expansion happen Government - local, regional and national - and their agencies, will have to work together with the land-owners, the forestry industry and others to get things done. Partnership does and will work where organisations share a common goal.'

Mr Simmonds pointed out that the Countryside Commission is committed to achieving this vision of woodland expansion using its unique role in countryside matters, its innovative research and experimental powers, its ability to help local projects, and its working relationships with local authorities, land owners, environmental agencies and others who have an interest in the health and well-being of the countryside.

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