LlyG update – government policy important to community woodlands, Feb 2015

Posted on February 23, 2015 by

Llais y Goedwig Director David Williams gives his bi monthly round up of key developments important to community woodlands in one easy read update.

This update draws on Llais y Goedwig’s ongoing work with organisations including Natural Resources Wales, Wales Environment link (WEL),  Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA), and the National Forestry Policy Group within Welsh Government.

All members are welcome to take part in attending meetings and inputting on consultations. For more information contact the network here.

1. Update on new Welsh Government legislation

As always seems to be the case when doing this regular update piece, there seems to be a lot happening policy wise. Having obtained the right to create it’s own legislation on those areas devolved to the Wales Government (including Education, Health ad Social Care, and Environment), there does seem great enthusiasm from Welsh politicians and officials to exercise this!

The Future Generations & Wellbeing Bill is on it’s 3rd name change and going through earnest discussion as to what third sector groups would like to see and what local and national government see is achievable – balancing off aspiration and practicality.

A Planning Bill is going through first phases of discussion and attracting significant interest from many third sector campaigning organsations, and the future shape of local government in Wales is going to be subject to change with a bill introduced on 26th January 2015, a white paper out for consultation (with some 10 weeks still to go – so after UK national elections) and a second bill promised to provide more detail.

 

2. New Woodlands for Wales Action Plan – development

Coming much closer to home – for community woodland groups – is a ‘lower level’ consultation on an new Woodlands for Wales Action Plan, the draft of which was issued on 26th January.

This lays out proposed priority areas for the five year period 2015 -2020, and sets this in the existing fifty year strategy for woodlands and trees in Wales, aptly and simply titled ‘Woodlands for Wales’ – originally published in 2001 and revised/re-published in 2009. So there is a fit into long term thinking as would be expected with forestry.

The long term vision is one that few community woodland groups would take issue with – ‘Wales will be known for it’s high quality woodlands that enhance the landscape, are appropriate to local conditions and have a diverse mixture of species and habitat’.

In many respects this article is a ‘thinking aloud’ response to the draft plan – it will, in the absence of any comments fed through by you the members of LlyG – form the basis of  response to Wales Government. So now is your opportunity to take issue with any points made – or to reinforce them. Do please take that opportunity!

 

Plan action plan themes

Below that vision are 20 high level outcomes framed around 5 themes:

– Welsh Woodlands and Trees

– Responding to Climate Change

– Woodlands for People

– A competitive and integrated forest sector

– Environment quality

So the five year action plan looks to set out what are the priority areas for that period (2015 – 2020) and which themes and outcomes in the fifty year ‘Woodlands for Wales’ strategy that they link to. It is useful to bear this in mind, as it can be very easy to see an action in isolation.

 

Plan underlying principles

Two other elements are also considered and explained. The first is a series of underlying principles – that run from one 5 year plan to another (in many ways the ‘why’ something is being done). The principles include fit to Natural Resources policy framework, any international commitments that Wales has, highlighting the benefits of forestry, woodland and trees, and monitoring arrangements.

 

Plan delivery mechinisms

The second element – again running from one 5 year plan to another – are delivery mechanisms (in other words the ‘how’ something is being done). This includes legislation (and powers/duties under that legislation), using best practice, incentives (which includes grant funding), policy guidance and research/evidence.

So underlying principles and delivery mechanisms are the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ – and the 5 year Woodlands for Wales Action Plan is the ‘what’.

 

Plan priority actions explained

The Plan sets out 16 priority actions, with the expectation that each will be reported on annually – so there is an account by Wales Government, working with the named partners in each priority action, to report on what has been done to put that action into practice in that year (in other words the ‘when’ and the ‘who’). There is scope for additional priority actions to be identified and added in the life of the plan, but not to take out any of the actions set out in the final Action Plan.

So, having looked to give some explanation as to context, what are the proposed 16 priority areas? (the plan does look to group these into themes, but this can be a bit confusing – so lets just see what they are). A very short comment is offered at each.

 

1 – Develop and maintain a risk register of pests and diseases and their threat to tree health in Wales

(Seems entirely sensible – but shouldn’t this already exist?)

 

2 – Develop and implement the Phytophera ramorum recovery programme

(Yes – is needed, and does need to include views from community woodlands affected as well as other landowners)

 

3 – Implement Glastir, the Welsh Governments’s key sustainable land management scheme available to land managers across Wales, and improve long standing processes for making woodland creation decisions that will be taken under the new scheme

(Sensible – needs a strong voice to ensure woodlands are fully considered and that it includes maintenance support as well as woodland creation)

 

4 – Embed woodlands and trees in the Natural Resources Policy framework and develop a policy for woodland removal and replacement

(This seems to be about trying to make sure woodland cover is not reduced due to water bodies concerns that forestry is a reason for falling water catchment – internal policy at cross cutting purposes) 

 

5 – Develop a policy to address the future shortfall in timber production as outlined in the recent 50 year production forecast

(Agree, sensible and obviously key for woodland processing and other jobs in the sector- should be done ‘with’ and not ‘to’ communities)

 

6 – Develop a strategic approach to increasing tree cover in towns and cities

(Sensible – highlights importance of trees, and links to good planning looking at what communities find important)

 

7 – Explore the issues associated with transferring woodland management responsibilities to community groups and enterprises to realise community development objectives

(This seems written on basis of divesting responsibility – potentially on the cheap. Need resources to follow responsibilities and suggest needs re-wording)

 

8 – Promote Welsh timber as an essential material for sustainable construction and central to the delivery of new affordable housing

(Good aspiration – and could give opportunities for marketing, as well as planning new planting)

 

9 – Develop models for woodland related enterprises and provide opportunities for employment and training across the forestry sector by developing sector relevant skills and providing work experience as pathways to employment

(Positive – and something Llais y Goedwig has been keen to be involved with)

 

10 – Examine the adequacy of and scope to improve existing measures and procedures for the protection of valued trees, particularly ancient, veteran and heritage trees

(Agree – seems to have been a gap, and left to the third sector to push for, so fully support)

 

11 – Continue to bring identified special sites, prioritised PAWS, native woodlands and priority habitats into favourable management on WGWE (Wales Govt Woodland Estate) and encourage private landowners to do so

(This will need grant funding support – but good to do, and could give opportunities to community groups)

 

12 – Develop a strategic approach to the issue of invasive species which damage woodland habitats

(Sensible – but as 1, shouldn’t this already exist?)

 

13 – Gather evidence to measure and evaluate the non-timber value of forestry, woodland and trees

(This does need to be broken down more – but does recognise the more intangible benefits of woods – on aesthetics, health and recreational value, cultural value – so surely scope for community woodland groups to give their experience)

 

14 – Assess, under the umbrella of the European Startree project and by other means, the economic potential and employment opportunities arising from non-timber forest products supported by forests and woodlands in Wales

(Good to see Startree work recognised – and possible scope to take forward research findings into particular actions)

 

15 – Promote and enhance access and recreation opportunities that forestry and woodlands in Wales can offer to provide health, well being and economic benefits to people and communities

(Agree – something LlyG has highlighted in the ‘Manifesto for Woods in Wales’)

 

16 – Participate in the Woodland Policy Enabling Programme to shape the future delivery of GB cross border forestry functions ensuring that the needs of Wales, and of the other GB administrations, are accommodated

(This focuses on the Wales Government and NRW relationship with Forestry Commission GB and joint agreement as to who does what and doubtless who pays for what)

 

How does Llais y Goedwig, the community woodland network for Wales fit in?

For every action, there are named partners – and clearly being a partner in helping deliver a priority gives firstly some credibility and recognition, and secondly a case for funding support to take forward activity to address that priority action.

So, where does Llais y Goedwig fit in? We are a named partner in priority actions 7, 9 and 14. Could we or should we be involved in others? Potentially yes – maybe with action 3 (spreading awareness and giving feedback on Glastir); maybe with action 6 (for some groups covering urban areas); maybe with action 15 (some LlyG members do a lot on recreation, health and wellbeing)

Are the actions the right ones? They do all seem to be things that are important for woodlands, but I would take issue with wording at action 7, as many community woodland groups would not want to take over woodland management responsibilities in full. Better wording might be ‘Explore the issues associated with community groups having an involvement in  woodland management from full responsibility to a range of support roles, so as to realise community development objectives’.

 

Are there too many actions? Probably not – some are ‘ongoing’ type activities (such as action 15) and others are quite time-bound, with a task and finish approach (such as actions 1 and 2)

 

 

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