Tree planting in England has plunged to an all-time low, with only 525 hectares of new woodland created in the year to March 31, 2017.
Confor’s Chief Executive Stuart Goodall said the statistics were both shocking and depressing – and an indication of total policy failure.
“These figures are pathetic – we thought things couldn’t get any worse, but they have,” Mr Goodall said. “What is clear is what I have said repeatedly – the current grant system is simply not fit for purpose.
“These shocking and depressing figures show that radical change is massively overdue.”
The statistics published by the Forestry Commission (See Page 11) on behalf of the agencies involved showed planting almost at a standstill in late 2016 and early 2017. After 422 hectares were created in the first quarter of 2016-17 (April-June), this fell to just 37 hectares in July-September 2016, and only 23 hectares of woodland in the whole of England between October and December 2016. The first figures for 2017 showed a slight increase to 43 hectares planted in January-March.
Mr Goodall added:
“Planting 37 hectares over three months would keep one person employed for just one day a week – over the whole of England. This failure is destroying rural jobs and threatening the viability of our hard-pressed tree nurseries.
“It is also punching holes in Government targets for tackling climate change. Planting trees is a cost-effective way to lock-up carbon as recognised by Treasury when it recently awarded over £19m for additional tree planting. However, there appears to be little point in throwing money at a system that is failing so abjectly.”
For further information: www.confor.org.uk