Mr. John Mark Taylor asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what are the duties and responsibilities of the Forestry Commission's conservancy private forestry and environment officers since the conservancy reorganisation of April.
The principal functions of the Forestry Commission's conservancy private forestry and environment officers are, in broad terms,
- —to advise the conservator on the best use of Forestry Commission resources to achieve a reasonable balance between forestry operations and the protection or enhancement of the environment;
- —to promote interest in private forestry and provide guidance to forest district managers on all professional forestry matters relating to private woodlands;
- —to co-ordinate sources of advice on all matters relating to broadleaved woodland;
- —to provide general oversight and guidance on the implementation of plant health regulations relating to forestry and forest products;
- —to ensure that satisfactory liaison is maintained throughout the conservancy with statutory bodies and agencies and organisations representing woodland owners, conservation groups and recreation interests;
- —to ensure that the work of the Forestry Commission is properly presented to the public.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland when the Forestry Commission, in its consideration of applications for felling licences for the clearance of broadleaved woods, adopted its policy of presumption against such clearances; and what size of wood is considered to be a small wood, such that it might be an exception to this presumption, as outlined in the Forestry Commission's booklet on consultation procedures, issued in May 1984.
The Forestry Commission's approach to the consideration of applications for felling licences for the conversion of woodland to agricultural use has been evolving over a number of years. In March 1984, the point had been reached when the commission's local staff were instructed that there should be a presumption against such conversion. This was reflected in the long-term policy proposals made in the commission's consultative paper "Broadleaves in Britain" issued in May 1984 and formally published as commission policy in its booklet on the consultation procedures issued at that time.The presumption against conversion, as stated in that booklet, did not include small woods which were not visited by the public and were not a feature in the landscape. A small wood was generally regarded as being one of less than three hectares, but the interpretation of this was dependent on other factors such as the extent and type of surrounding woodlands.In the light of the operation of this policy ard discussions in connection with its broadleaves policy review, the commission subsequently decided that consideration of each case should be on the basis of an initial presumption against the conversion of any woodland to agriculture. This has been reflected in the latest edition of the booklet on the consultation procedures issued in April 1985.