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Tree Planting

Volume 591: debated on Thursday 29 January 2015

Although figures are not yet available for the current planting season, we estimate that since 2010 our rural development programme will have supported the planting of over 10 million trees through new woodland creation. At the same time, our Big Tree Plant project is set to meet its target of planting 1 million new trees in England’s urban areas.

Trees and woodland are a hugely important part of our landscape in Yorkshire, and I congratulate the Government on their work nationally to support tree planting. Locally too, many community groups in Harrogate and Knaresborough have planted thousands and thousands of trees. What steps are the Government taking to safeguard the health of trees from the threat of disease?

In April 2014 we published a tree health management plan alongside our plant biosecurity strategy, and we are implementing those, working closely with stakeholders. We take a risk-based approach to plant health and we have created a prioritised risk register to inform appropriate action against pests and diseases. For example, we have introduced movement restrictions or notification requirements for certain tree species, and we appointed a senior chief bio-health officer, Professor Nicola Spence.

Planting trees has been one of the great success stories over the past few years, but simply planting trees is not enough. We must manage our woodland, find commercial uses for wood products, and make sure that our forests are available for a wide range of uses. Can the Minister reassure me that the report of the independent panel on forestry and the subsequent strategy developed within the Department are very much ongoing business, and that we will see many of those ideas put into practice over the coming years?

I take this opportunity to pay tribute to my hon. Friend for all the work he did in this area as Minister. Yesterday I met our stakeholder forum, which involves people from the commercial sector right the way through to local charity and voluntary groups. We can do much better on managing woodland in this country and we are taking the steps that will enable us to do that so that it can be more productive, better for biodiversity and better for local economies too, through initiatives such as Grown in Britain.