Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: forests and woodland

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/sustaining-and-enhancing-trees-forests-and-woodland. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


England’s trees, woods and forests are an important and much-loved natural asset. They produce fuel and wood, support plant and animal life and help reduce climate change and its effects. Whether they are single street trees or networks of woodland in the countryside, they provide leisure, recreation and natural beauty.

Climate change, population growth and the increasing pressures on the land put trees and forests at risk. Diseases and pests also pose an increasing danger.

We need to make sure our trees, forests and woodland are properly managed and protected.


In January 2013, we published the ‘Forestry and woodlands policy statement’. This sets out how we will protect, improve and expand our public and private woodlands.

In July 2013 we published an implementation plan which details the progress we have made against the 36 commitments in the policy statement.

Publicly owned forests

Publicly owned forests are a national asset, valued by the people who use them and an important part of the timber industry.

To ensure the Public Forest Estate is properly managed and protected, we’ve committed to setting up a new, independent public body. This body will hold the Public Forest Estate in trust for the nation. We’ve published a summary outlining the new Public Forest Estate Management Organisation’s purpose and will introduce draft legislation when Parliamentary time allows.

Protecting our trees and forests

As well as the normal controls and restrictions on the import, movement and keeping of plants, we’re taking new measures to help ensure the health of our trees and plants and help manage the risk posed to them from disease. These include:

  • setting up the independent Tree and Plant Health Biosecurity Expert Taskforce to review our strategic approach to tree and plant health
  • implementing our chalara management plan, which includes measures to slow the spread of the disease
  • funding research
  • further strengthening our import controls

Woodland economy and well-managed woodland

We will help invigorate the woodland economy, to bring neglected woodlands back into management and help create jobs and growth. To achieve this, we’re:

  • cutting red tape in the forestry sector, and implementing the Forestry Taskforce’s recommendations for reducing regulation as set out in our response to the taskforce’s final report and one year update
  • researching wood products and their markets – we’ll publish the results in Spring 2014
  • carrying out research to find out how best to help landowners create, manage, and get the most from their woodlands

About 47% of woodland, mostly in private ownership, is not well-managed. We’ll check the status of woodland management in 2018, to see if we need to take more action.

Wildlife and the natural environment

We’re working to restore and improve our native and ancient woodlands, carrying out the plans we set out in the ‘Natural environment white paper’ and ‘Biodiversity 2020’.

We’re developing an open habitat strategy for the Public Forest Estate, which we published in December 2013.

To make sure that we properly understand the value of our woodlands, we’ll develop a set of natural capital accounts for UK forestry assets and the Public Forest Estate.

We’re also working to stop deforestation and illegal logging around the world and to encourage the use of sustainable palm oil.

Big Tree Plant

The Big Tree Plant is a national campaign that has brought together a partnership of national organisations who already plant trees, as well as civic and community groups working with Defra and the Forestry Commission.

Its target to plant 1 million new trees in England’s towns and cities between 2010 and 2015 has now been reached and is set to be surpassed. Half of the trees in the Big Tree Plant are going into the 33% most deprived neighbourhoods or those with the least green space.


We set up the Independent Panel on Forestry in 2011. The panel was required to advise us on forestry and woodland policy in England, and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy. The panel published its final report in 2012.

The ‘Forestry and woodlands policy statement’ (January 2013), incorporates our response to the final report.

Who we’re working with

The Forestry Commission

The Forestry Commission is a government department that is responsible for implementing policy, managing publicly owned forests and regulating privately owned forests, among other duties.

The National Forest

The National Forest Company is responsible for creating the National Forest - woodlands that cover 200 square miles of central England. It was set up in 1995 and is a non-departmental public body sponsored by Defra.

Community Forest Programme

Community Forests are a partnership between local authorities and local, regional and national partners including the Forestry Commission and Natural England. Their aim is to create new opportunities for leisure, recreation and cultural activities.

Appendix 1: forestry and woodlands policy statement

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We published the forestry and woodlands policy statement (31 January 2013).


  • incorporates the our response to the Independent Panel on Forestry’s final report
  • acknowledges the importance of the panel’s report and confirms that we share the panel’s vision for the future of our forests

The policy statement sets out priorities for future government policy-making. This will concentrate on protecting, improving and expanding our public and private woodlands. It covers, among other things:

  • the future of the Public Forest Estate
  • woodland creation and management
  • the economic development of the forestry sector
  • community involvement in local woodlands
  • tree health

The statement confirms that the Public Forest Estate will remain in public ownership. It also announces that a new body will be established to hold the Estate in trust of the nation and manage it for the long-term benefit of people, the economy and the environment.

Appendix 2: tree and plant health

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

To deal with the increasing threat from tree and plant pests and pathogens the Tree and Plant Health Biosecurity Expert Taskforce, was set up in 2012 to review and advise on our strategic approach to tree and plant health.

The taskforce published their final report on 20 May 2013.

Ministers accepted all the recommendations in the taskforce report in the response set out in a Written Ministerial Statement issued on 12 December 2013.

Chalara ash dieback

Ash tree dieback is caused by the Chalara fraxinea fungus. It has already affected a high proportion of ash trees in Northern Europe. It was discovered for the first time in Great Britain in a nursery in Buckinghamshire in February 2012. In October 2012, it was also found in the wider environment in woodland in Norfolk.

The scientific advice is that we can’t stop Chalara, but we can focus on slowing the rate of its spread. Our updated Chalara management plan (March 2013):

  • provides an update on what government and others have done in response to the disease
  • sets out what we’ll do next now that our understanding of Chalara, and the costs and benefits of action has developed further
  • outlines further work to develop our understanding of the disease

This updates the interim control plan (December 2012).

Further information

We’ll publish further evidence as we continue to improve our understanding of Chalara, how it spreads, and how spread might be slowed and damage reduced. This research forms part of the overarching tree health and plant biosecurity evidence plan.

Forest Research (the research agency of the Forestry Commission) has also published a project in conjunction with many collaborating land-owners and nurseries to identify those few ash trees which might be resistant to Ash Die Back:

Protecting wider plant health

We use legislation to control and restrict the import and movement of plants and other material affected by plant pests, to prevent the introduction and spread of harmful organisms.

The measures we take are based on scientific assessment of the risks and include:

  • import and inland inspections of planting material and certain types of plant produce
  • measures to eradicate or contain any outbreaks of harmful pests which occur
  • surveys and publicity to increase the chance that disease outbreaks are detected early
  • certification measures to ensure a supply of disease-free planting material – eg all seed potatoes marketed in the UK are certified

We’re working to minimise the risk of importing other plant pests and pathogens by:

  • strengthening import control activities and protocols
  • influencing the review of the EU plant health regime
  • facilitating international collaboration

The UK Plant Health Risk Register records and rates risks to crops, trees, gardens and ecosystems from plant pests and pathogens.

Funding tree and plant health research

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has allocated £8 million for new research into tree health over four years from 2012 to 2013. New research will include a programme of more applied research as well more strategic work under the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative. The Forestry Commission has also increased investment in tree health research from its existing forestry research resources by 30% over the same period.

A summary of Defra, and other, research commissioned up to April 2013 is available.

With the Forestry Commission, we’re carrying out a £23 million, 5-year programme against two major Phytophthora diseases: P. ramorum and P. kernoviae. This programme will be completed in 2014, and has recently been the subject of a technical review (2013).

Who we’re working with

The Food and Environment Research Agency (Fera) implements the plant health regulations in England (and Wales on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government). The Scottish Government is responsible for implementation in Scotland. Separate but similar arrangements apply in Northern Ireland.

Fera, together with the devolved administrations and the Forestry Commission, forms the UK Plant Health Service. This works with the EC and its member states to agree appropriate plant health rules for Europe and co-ordinate their implementation. A range of services are available to help growers, traders and the general public meet their obligations under these plant health rules.

Work under the Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Action Plan

Under the Tree health and plant biosecurity action plan, Fera leads on communication with the public and professional stakeholders, to make them more aware of tree health and broader plant biosecurity threats, and how they can help.

Defra is using and commissioning scientific research and evidence to minimise risks of new pests and pathogens entering the UK (see section above on ‘Funding Tree and Plant Biosecurity Research). The Forestry Commission is:

  • taking account of the socio-economic benefits of healthy plants and trees
  • understanding and adopting biosecurity measures
  • improving their surveillance strategy by giving stakeholders better opportunities to contribute information and take action.

Appendix 3: using sustainably produced palm oil

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Palm oil is the world’s most used vegetable oil, and global consumption is increasing. It is used in food, animal feed, soap and cosmetics, and to produce biodiesel. It can be produced at higher volumes per unit area of land than other vegetable oils. Unsustainable palm oil production is often linked to deforestation and peatland drainage, mainly in Indonesia and Malaysia. This has major impacts on biodiversity, climate change and also land rights for local people.

UK statement on palm oil

Organisations in the UK that use palm oil have agreed to work towards 100% sourcing of credibly certified sustainable palm oil by 2015. In October 2012, trade associations for palm oil using sectors, the government and the World Wildlife Fund agreed a UK statement on sustainable palm oil.

We published a one year progress report, including details of new signatories, alongside an estimate of UK palm oil consumption in October 2013. This estimated that in 2012 between 52% and 60% of palm oil used in the UK that was certified sustainable.

We have now published a second UK progress report which shows achievements from each organisation in the last year and an update of the estimates of UK sustainable palm oil consumption for 2013. The new report estimated that in 2013 between 55% and 71% of UK palm oil imports were supported by RSPO certification.

What we are doing

We are signed up to UK statement on sustainable palm oil and are taking a number of steps to encourage the move to sustainable sourcing. This includes:

  • providing an advice and information service on sustainable palm oil for UK businesses and government procurers including online information, newsletters and seminars. CPET can be contacted on 01305 236 100, or email cpet@efeca.com.
  • amending the Government Buying Standard (GBS) for food and catering to include a new requirement about sourcing sustainable palm oil, palm kernel oil and derivatives. All food and catering products bought by central government must meet sustainability requirements by 2015.
  • implementing mandatory EU requirements, notably the Renewable Energy Directive sustainability criteria which apply to palm oil used for bio-fuels in transport and power, and the requirements for palm oil labelling in the Food Information for Consumers Regulation.
  • working with the organisations involved in the national statement to monitor the progress made in delivering their commitments, and the overall progress towards achieving 100% sustainable palm oil sourcing in the UK.
  • encouraging other consumer nations in Europe and more widely to take action to switch to sourcing sustainable palm oil, including by taking part in meetings with representatives of other existing and prospective national commitments.
  • continuing to deliver DFID’s £250million 10 year Forest Governance, Markets & Climate Programme which aims to reduce the production of illegally sourced commodities including palm oil.

Appendix 4: working to stop deforestation

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

By reducing deforestation we can protect biodiversity, but also reduce poverty and carbon emissions, because:

  • 50 to 80% of terrestrial biodiversity is in forests
  • 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods
  • deforestation accounts for about 12% of global greenhouse gas emissions

Funding work to stop deforestation through the International Climate Fund

Defra contributes £140 million to the International Climate Fund to reduce deforestation, forest degradation and the causes of deforestation in developing countries.

Working to stop illegal logging

Two pieces of legislation are central to our work to stop illegal logging.

Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Regulation

The Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Regulation allows the EU to enter into legally binding Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with timber-producing countries. Once VPAs are in operation, EU-bound timber exports will be issued with FLEGT licenses which verify the timber’s legality.

EU Timber Regulation

The EU Timber Regulation:

  • makes it an offence to place illegal timber on the EU market for the first time
  • requires those placing timber on the EU market for the first time to make sure that the timber was harvested legally, regardless of where it was harvested
  • requires traders in the EU to keep a record of who they buy timber from and sell it to

In the UK, the EUTR is enforced by National Measurement Office.