Quicker approvals, increased need for professionalism?
Ahead of the November workshop series Better Management Plans, Faster Approvals, Neville Elstone MICFor, Director at Cumbria Woodlands, discusses how quicker grant approvals require better professionalism and responsibility on the part of the English private sector.
Our current approach to regulation and land management payments for forests and woodland in England is creaking at the seams. There is greater uncertainty over grant submissions than ever, increasing delays in approvals for management plans combined with greater complexity and an ever greater risk of clawback of grants. We also know that there are likely to be further cuts to Forest Services of between 25% and 40% which will further stress the system. To compound this Stobart’s have just signed a government deal for funding in excess of £5 million pounds to bring currently undermanaged woods into production, this can only lead to increased calls on an already stretch system.
The question has to be how do we as forestry professionals and as a sector respond to this? There are several options, firstly wait and rely on the regulator to act, secondly improve our game by having the greatest understanding of the system as possible and submitting the tightest applications we can to reduce the number of iterations of every application, or last, grasp the opportunity to increase self-regulation and explore amendments to the current regulatory burden.
The last two points offer real options for change leading to potentially increased responsibility, self-determination and the need to adopt a truly professional approach. Self-regulation akin to the building control system where private sector surveyors approve their own work to a set of regulations. This could see approved and suitably-qualified foresters approving their own management plans, felling licences and grant claims. For those willing to step up to the mark this could provide significant business benefit with processes and timescale much more within their own control.
So I see that it is a time of real risk and opportunity. How do we as a profession step up to the mark calling for the right change to the current regulations, put in place the right checks and balances to deliver the current Earned Recognition pilot and develop it further? There is a clear need for real open dialog within the sector to discuss how best to frame this.
The Better Mangement Plan, Faster Approvals workshops will introduce the new Countryside Stewardship scheme and guide participants through the application requirements including a sustainable, UKFS-compliant management plan. Workshops take place throughout England in November, to find a location near you visit www.charterdforesters.org/grants-workshop