Part Two – Forest Wide Programmes
Since 1990, through the hard work and dedication of the Thames Chase partnership, woodland cover has increased from 8% to 12% of the total Community Forest area. The creation of new woodlands, combined with the increase in management of existing woodlands, has already made significant improvements in the recreational, amenity and biodiversity values of Thames Chase. But for this to continue, and to achieve the original target of up to 30% forestry cover by 2030, the partnership must seek new ways of supporting and financing trees and woodland. Access, usage and understanding of this resource by people and wildlife will also be a critical factor in funding and maintenance requirements.
It is for this reason that the refreshed vision and objectives within this Thames Chase Plan embraces recent changes in knowledge, thinking and policy that extend beyond Forestry demonstrating how a Community Forest remains a relevant proposition today. Recent planning reforms expressed through the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) continue to recognise the ongoing role that Community Forests have to play in realising sustainable development. Paragraph 92 of the NPPF states that:
Community Forests offer valuable opportunities for improving the environment around towns, by upgrading the landscape and providing for recreation and wildlife. An approved Community Forest plan may be a material consideration in preparing development plans and in deciding planning applications.
Consequently, this Plan sets out five Forest-wide programmes of delivery that are in alignment with the core aims of the NPPF:
- Landscape Regeneration
These programmes not only encompass woodland and landscape regeneration, but also how that environment needs to be accessed and used by people to support health and wellbeing, education and economic growth. As well as echoing the ambition of the NPPF, the Community Forest plan can also help strengthen Local Plan policies relating to these themes, supporting development of new Local Plans and development management decisions.
The Forest-wide programmes of forestry, landscape regeneration, access, people and promotion have been relevant since 1990 and will continue to be so until the Community Forest is successfully delivered. This second Part sets out these programmes in more detail, also highlighting strategic opportunities for delivery. All of these opportunities are also set out at the end of Part Two supplemented by a list of forest-wide and non-spatial projects. The following Part Three sets out time-bound and phased projects within areas that will incrementally deliver against the high-level programmes, and in turn the broader vision.
The aim is for Thames Chase Community Forest to have reached its target of 30% woodland cover by 2030. This will require a combination of large scale woodland planting enabled by the strategic partnership with the Forestry Commission, supplemented by local tree planting initiatives by communities, business Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes and through development mitigation. Putting into place maintenance regimes so that these gains will be sustainable in the long term is also critical.
It is clear that the land reclamation sector will offer significant opportunities for new woodland creation. A significant number of the mineral extraction and landfill sites within Thames Chase could become new woodlands upon closure and restoration. These sites can offer opportunities for social, environmental and economic benefit through woodland creation as part of their end use.
With new woodland creation comes the need for management, to ensure forests achieve their optimum value for money. This is particularly important as the original Thames Chase planting is now entering early maturity. As such, developing sustainable models that ensure the long-term aftercare and public benefit of new woodlands is a key principle and aim of the Thames Chase partnership. A project by the Forestry Commission at Gerpins in Havering has demonstrated how a new financial model can secure the creation and long-term management of new woodland through private sector investment.
The objective for woodland management within Thames Chase should be along the lines of multipurpose forestry. This isn’t a new concept: in fact forests are one of the first places that multipurpose land use developed. Multipurpose forestry is about maximising the value from woodlands based on seeking social, environmental and economic returns. The balance between these depends on the specific circumstances, but all values should be considered. In the vast majority of cases, one purpose can benefit another, for example coppicing for woodfuel can significantly benefit woodland biodiversity.
Thames Chase has an aspiration that all woodlands in the Community Forestry will be managed using this multipurpose approach; this will help ensure the greatest value for these local assets.
It is important that the pressures woodlands are facing in light of climate change, pests and diseases are considered. Planting schemes and management regimes will be our main tools to ensure that woodlands develop and remain resilient to change. We must also realise the valuable role that these woodlands can play in the messages of climate change mitigation and national and international forest resource management.
Summary of Forestry programme
|Woodland Creation||Woodland Maintenance|
Forestry programme and strategic objectives 1-5
|Objectives||Fit with Programme|
|1. To protect, improve and expand the woodland character of the Community Forest||
|2. To maintain the natural integrity of the Community Forest’s air, land and water including wildlife||
|3. To develop a connected network of links and accessible, vibrant greenspaces throughout the Community Forest||
|4. To integrate climate change adaptation and mitigation responses into the developing Community Forest||
|5. To use the Community Forest to improve local health and well-being, volunteering, learning and employment||Woodland environments can support health and well-being, provide natural conservation volunteering opportunities, act as outdoor classrooms and offer green economic opportunities|
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