- Posted by: Mike Hedges MS
- Categories: Assembly Questions, Press Releases
Mike Hedges AM supports more forests asks Environment Cabinet Member for support for long term Forest plan
Speaking after Questions to the Environment Cabinet Member for the Environment, Swansea East AM Mike Hedges said…. Like a lot of my constituents, I love walking in woods; there is something wonderful walking through woods in spring time or through the leaves in autumn. I think that we need to ensure that the trees that we have are protected and that severe action is taken when developers cut down protected trees as in the case of the Giant Redwood Trees in Penllegaer.
We also need to plan for new forests, and it is for this reason that I asked the Minister why land cannot be set aside in Local Development Plans for Forests and woodland. It used to be possible to do this, and it would be good to have this power for planning authorities again. I am pleased with the Ministers reply and will look forward to engaging in further discussions with her on the topic.’
I welcome the Government’s statement. I just can’t understand why everybody else doesn’t believe in the importance of forests, because I actually believe it’s one of the most important things we have.173
we have. I don’t believe you can actually have too many trees, and it always pains me when I see the number of trees being chopped down. In Rebecca Evans’s constituency, a giant redwood has been chopped down in Penllergaer. That’s a matter of massive local concern, and it’s also a matter of concern the number of trees in that area that are being removed. So, I think that we really do need to protect trees more than we do now. Tree preservation orders are very good. They give more illusionary protection than actual protection, but when they’ve had an accident and they’ve knocked a tree down, you can’t un-accident the removal of a tree. I’ll tell you what, if there’s two things I know: grade 2 listed buildings spontaneously combust, and that people driving around trees have accidents at fairly regular intervals, which ends up knocking down trees that have tree preservation orders on them. Both of those I find amazing, and it must be serendipity that causes it.174
Can I welcome the co-operative forest planning scheme, specifically for people and co-operatives to work together and plan woodland creation at a significant and strategic scale? I support the planting of mixed forestry as opposed to a monoculture of conifers. There’s been a number of tree diseases, such as Dutch Elm disease, Ash dieback, and and the one the Minister pronounced earlier, which I’m not going to take on. Does the Minister accept that mixed forests provide some protection against tree diseases, and that such mixed forests should include broadleaved trees? Does the Minister accept that we need annual regional forestry targets? We tend to have long-term targets, but the long-term, as people involved in financial planning will tell you, is made up of a lot of short terms. So, if you want to do something in the long term, you have to successfully deal with a number of short terms to get there.175
Finally, something I’ve never understood, and it used to exist under the old county plan where land was identified for a whole range of uses: why can’t the local development plans identify land for forestry in such a way that people know that that land is suitable?176
Lesley Griffiths AM 15:22:13
Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs
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Thank you, Mike Hedges, for that list of questions. I agree with you: I don’t think you can have too many trees. I’m not aware of the reasons why the trees were being taken down in my friend Rebecca Evans’s constituency, but I have to say, one of the most deep experiences I’ve had lately was I was very fortunate to visit Muir Woods in San Francisco when I was there last September for the global action climate summit, and I have to say, the air that you could breathe in that redwood forest was truly incredible. It made me realise how fortunate they are to have those type of trees out in California.177
I think you’re right about the mix of trees, and as I said in my response to Llyr Huws Gruffydd, it’s really important that you plant the right trees in the right places and, so, whether that be conifer in some areas or broadleaved in others, it’s absolutely vital that we get that right. I’m very pleased you welcome the co-operative forest planning scheme. I mentioned in my opening statement we’ve put £480,000 into that. We’ve had two rounds, and it really does encourage planning for woodland creation at a very significant and strategic scale that we haven’t seen before.178
I think the long-term target is very necessary for the industry, but, of course, if you have an annual target, it’s much easier to monitor it, which is what we had and where we realised that we weren’t planting the number of trees that we would all want to see. Around ancient veteran and heritage trees, the woodland strategy does acknowledge the importance of ancient woodlands and, obviously, our natural resources policy sets out a commitment to very carefully manage those trees and woodlands that have such a high environmental value, and I mentioned, again, that Planning Policy Wales has certainly given guidance to strengthen that aspect.