Getting the balance right between trees, woodland and agricultural land
The National Park Partnership Plan (NPPP) is out for consultation until the 17 December and I have been having lots of conversations with farmers and others about the use of land and the potential impacts of expanding woodland in the National Park.
The draft NPPP sets out a range of objectives around Nature, People and Place. As part of this, there is a target for expanding woodland in the National Park and this builds on something that is already happening. Around 1000 hectares of woodland per annum is being planted or naturally regenerated every year at present. However, as part of this, we need to think about how we can integrate woodland into our landscape whilst also ensuring that we protect good agricultural land in the National Park.
We actually have a published Forestry Strategy that sets out a comprehensive approach to this, including that the wholesale conversion of enclosed, in-bye agricultural land to forestry is not supported and that any new planting schemes on agricultural land should give full consideration to the quality of the land in a local context to ensure they do not adversely impact on local patterns of agriculture and landscape.
The debate about woodland and agriculture will no doubt continue but there are great examples in the Park where some woodland has been taken forward on farms and it has improved the overall systems within the farm.
Woodland expansion will mean change in the uplands areas of the Park too and we need to work closely with all those involved whether estate owners, tenant farmers or local communities to find the right approach to this. This includes working closely with our colleagues in Scottish Forestry who grant aid and regulate woodland development in Scotland.
Agriculture makes a recognised positive contribution to the social, cultural, landscape, biodiversity and economic aspects of the Park. Other land uses also contribute in a variety of ways. There is scope for different land uses within the Park of 450,000 hectares to ensure that we not only tackle the twin crises of climate change and nature depletion but also provide good long term jobs in rural areas.
The draft NPPP contains a high-level map showing areas that could potentially have some woodland expansion in them. To be clear this is a draft and also this does not mean that the area marked will all be woodland. Again the Forest Strategy sets out a more detailed approach to this.
The National Park Authority wants to work with farmers and others across the Park to look for solutions to the challenges that we have. We also need to work with farmers on better understanding the value of carbon in grassland management and as rural payments change over the next few years we need to make sure we support businesses that are positively helping to address the climate and nature crisis.
The draft National Park Partnership Plan consultation is open until the 17 December but the conversation doesn’t end there. We want to continue the conversation that we have started during this consultation and find ways to positively work across the Park with the farming community.
I will work with farmers and others across the Park to find ways of integrating land uses so that the Park’s wildlife is healthy, its communities and businesses thrive and it serves as an example of nature restoration. It’s about nature, people and place.