House of Commons Debates, Written Answers & Written Statements

Week Ending Friday 13 May 2011


Debates 12 May 2011


Forests and Woodlands

9. Mark Pawsey (Rugby) (Con): What steps her Department is taking to encourage greater community involvement in the running of local forests and woodland. [55095]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mrs Caroline Spelman): I recently had the privilege of planting a tree with the Friends of Kingfisher Country Park, the Tree Council, Keep Britain Tidy, BTCV and local tree wardens to mark the milestone of 100,000 trees planted as part of our big tree plant. Since the launch in December, we have helped local communities and civil society partners across the country to plant trees where they live and work.

Mark Pawsey: I thank the Secretary of State for her reply. In January 2000, ownership of Brandon wood in my constituency passed from the Forestry Commission to the Friends of Brandon Wood and became the first community woodland in England. Since then, volunteers have worked hard to provide a network of footpaths for all-weather and all-ability walking throughout the woods, and local schools have been involved. Will the Minister ensure that the Independent Panel on Forestry fully considers the benefits that can arise from local ownership of woodlands such as that of Brandon wood?

Mrs Spelman: I am sure Members know this, but I should perhaps point out that my hon. Friend has a degree in estate management, and his constituency is therefore very blessed given its appetite for engagement in community forestry. Brandon wood is one of the best examples of community forestry, and I suggest that my hon. Friend should pass it directly to the IPF, because that panel is open to all members of the public, and part of its work will involve going around the country. He has an excellent opportunity to commend this example to the panel.

Barry Gardiner (Brent North) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that one of the best ways of getting local people further involved in woodland management would be by progressing the wood fuel strategy? Responsibility for that now lies with her colleagues in the Department of Energy and Climate Change of course. Several months ago I had a meeting with the Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker), at which it was agreed that the programme could be doubled, but that it was important that both Departments work together on this because it is important that both demand and supply are matched up and incentivised.

Mrs Spelman: The hon. Gentleman is right to point out the potential of wood fuel as part of a portfolio of renewable energy sources. We work very closely with our colleagues at DECC on this matter. We share a vision for the role of renewable energy, and I will address the wood fuel strategy with my DECC colleagues.

Mr Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): I doubt that the Secretary of State will be aware of Nottinghamshire police’s efforts to clamp down on antisocial behaviour in one of my woodlands in Sherwood, but does she agree that opening up woodlands to members of the public for the right use serves to drive out such antisocial behaviour?

Mrs Spelman: I can well imagine the problems. I suspect that every Member has some woodland in their constituency, so we will all know that that environment can, from time to time, attract the unwelcome attentions of those who perpetrate antisocial behaviour. It is therefore all the more important that people in our communities are vigilant and active in the right use of woodlands and green spaces, so that, as far as possible, we stamp out the antisocial behaviour that spoils them for everyone.



Written Answers 11 May 2011


Countryside: Access

Miss McIntosh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many miles of public access network have been available in each of the last three years; and how many are forecast to be available in (a) 2011-12, (b) 2012-13 and (c) 2013-14; and if she will make a statement. [54393]

Richard Benyon: The management of public rights of way is the responsibility of local highway authorities in England. The Government do not gather annual figures on the public access network, but it is estimated that in England there are currently approximately 119,550 miles of public rights of way comprising: footpaths (91,250 miles); bridleways (22,250 miles); restricted byways (3750 miles); and byways open to all traffic (2,300 miles). Further public access in the countryside is available, for example under agri-environment schemes and permissive access granted by the landowner.


Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who was responsible for drafting the consultation document on the future of the public forest estate in England; and what contribution staff in(a) the Forestry Commission and (b) her Department made to the drafting. [54397]

Mr Paice [holding answer 9 May 2011]: The Forestry Commission and DEFRA provided advice and jointly drafted the consultation document. The Forestry Commission produced the design and layout of the final document.

Written Answers 10 May 2011


Forests: Developing Countries

Ms Harman: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department is providing funding to the reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries programme. [51986]

Mr Paice [holding answer 26 April 2011]: DEFRA is responsible for £100 million for forestry in support of REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), under the UK's £2.9 billion International Climate Fund that was announced in the 2010 spending review.

Written Answers 9 May 2011


Forestry Commission: Manpower

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many employees of the Forestry Commission were (a) full-time and (b) part time (i) in each of the last four years and (ii) as at the end of March 2011. [54812]

Mr Paice: The Forestry Commission is a non-ministerial department for England, Scotland and Wales. The following table shows the number of Forestry Commission employees in full and part-time positions.

As at 31 March:

























Written Answers 5 May 2011


Independent Panel on Forestry: Internet

Mary Creagh: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) when the Independent Panel on Forestry will publish its meeting dates on her Department's website; and if she will ensure that the panel's meeting dates are published on that website in advance of them taking place; (2) what guidance or advice she or her officials have provided to the Forestry Panel in respect of the information it should publish following its meetings.

Mr Paice [holding answer 4 May 2011]: The next three meeting dates for the Independent Panel on Forestry are on the DEFRA website. Further details of how the panel will operate and how it will gather views and information will be published on the website soon. [Minutes of first meeting]

The intention in setting up the panel was to provide an independent review of the issues involved. There is a wide spread of interest in the panel’s work and that makes it particularly important for the panel to engage people and to be open in its work but, ultimately how the panel achieves that will be its decision.

Written Answers 4 May 2011


Planning: Sustainable Development

Heidi Alexander: To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government whether his Department plans to publish a definition of sustainable development prior to the commencement of the National Planning Policy Framework consultation. [52994]

Robert Neill: The approach to defining sustainable development for planning purposes will be set out in the draft National Planning Policy Framework, to be published for consultation in the summer.

Written Answers 3 May 2011


Ben Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of users of public forests were (a) walkers, (b) cyclists and (c) horse riders in the latest period for which figures are available. [53260]

Mr Paice: The Forestry Commission has collected data at its principle recreation sites through on-site surveys since 2003.

Average figures from these surveys show that in England from 2003-09:

(a) 63% of visitors go for a walk;

(b) 32% of visitors ride a bike; and

(c) Horse riding visits are estimated at less than 1% of total visits.

Ben Gummer: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment she has made of the effects on local economic development of (a) cycling and (b) equestrian access to public forests. [53261]

Mr Paice: A study entitled “Valuing Forest Recreation Activities” was commissioned by the Forestry Commission and published in 2006.

The study estimated the local economic (income and employment) impacts of forest recreation. In particular, the study considered the mean local spend on forest recreation by horse-riders, general visitors, nature watchers and cyclists, mainly at public forests. Horse-riders generated the highest spend per visit but cycling and other activities were also found to generate significant levels of spending. Annual local expenditure at the sites surveyed in the New Forest and Thetford forest were over £60 million and £10 million respectively.

The full report can be found on the Forestry Commission’s website at: