asked Her Majesty's Government:
What assessment they have made of the arborological and environmental results to date in the development of the National Forest; and whether they will consider further similar projects outside the present Midlands site with a higher woodland cover coefficient. [HL4788]
Annual monitoring of the National Forest's progress is undertaken through the National Forest Company's (NFC) corporate plan and annual report. Headline achievements since the National Forest Company began work in 1995 include:
over 7 million trees planted with woodland cover increased from 6 per cent to 17.5 per cent (5,875 hectares (ha)); 85 per cent of the trees planted are broad leaves;
1,140 ha of existing woodlands have been brought back into management;
in addition to areas planted with trees, a further 1,300 ha of habitats have been created or brought back into management;
82 kilometres (km) of new hedgerows have been planted and 91 km of existing hedges have been brought back into management;
two sites have been surveyed, between 1998 and 2006, for woodland birds and an increase has been found in woodland and woodland-edge species including song thrush, linnet, bullfinch, starling, willow and grasshopper warblers, green woodpecker, redpoll and dunnock. Survey work will continue in the future. The surveys were undertaken by the Leicestershire Ecological Records Centre;
other biodiversity action plan species have seen an increase, including the return of otters to the rivers Trent and Mease; 194 field ponds managed/created to attract ruddy darter dragonfly; 103 new black poplar planting sites; and 102 new sites planted with bluebells; and
80 per cent of all new woodlands created have some form of public access and a further 8 per cent of sites have access planned.
Later this month, the NFC will be launching a comprehensive report setting out how the National Forest is contributing to sustainable development.
The Government are not currently considering establishing a similar project elsewhere in the country, but the lessons learnt from the National Forest have informed the new Strategy for England's Trees, Woods and Forests.