Call for new charter to protect Britain’s ancient woodland

Call for new charter to protect Britain’s ancient woodland
by Emily Beament 

Published in the “I” (from the Independent) 13/01/2016 Ref:

Campaigners are calling for a new charter to protect woodlands, trees and people’s access to nature across the country.

The Woodland Trust is spearheading the campaign by 45 conservation and cultural groups for a UK Charter for Trees, Woods and People – which would be launched on the 800th anniversary of the original Charter of the Forest.

Signed in 1217 by Henry III, two years after his predecessor King John signed the Magna Carta, the Charter of the Forest restored and protected peoples’ right to access the Royal Forests, important for grazing livestock, foraging for food and collecting firewood.

Now the campaigners say it is time for a new charter, as the UK’s woodlands and trees face “unprecedented pressures” from development, diseases, pests and climate change. It would set out the relationship between people and trees in the UK in the 21st century,ensuring access to nature and protection of woodland and other habitats, and recognising the importance of trees in combating climate change.

It would also cover forestry, the value of trees and woods, the importance of new planting and making sure landscapes are resilient, the organisations backing the charter say.

They also want local groups , clubs, councils and communities to feed ideas into the building of the charter.

48 cross-sector organisations unite to call for a UK Charter for Trees, Woods and People

Posted: 13/01/2016

The Woodland Trust is leading 47* organisations in a campaign to celebrate the value of our trees and woods and secure their future by creating a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People.

The new charter will be launched in November 2017, which marks 800 years since Henry lll signed the original Charter of the Forest. This influential charter protected and restored the rights of people to access and use the Royal Forests.

Today, our nation’s woods and trees are facing unprecedented pressures from development, pests and diseases and climate change. They risk being neglected, undervalued and forgotten. Now is the time to create a new charter, a broader charter that recognises the importance of trees in our society, celebrates their enormous contribution to our lives, and acts now so that future generations can benefit from them too.

The coalition’s ambition is that the principles set out in the 2017 charter will articulate the relationship between people and trees in the UK in the 21st century. The charter will provide guidance and inspiration for policy, practice, innovation and enjoyment. Redefining the everyday benefits that we all gain from woods and trees in our lives, for everyone, from Government to businesses, communities and individuals.

Local groups, clubs, councils and committees will be encouraged to take part by bringing people together to celebrate the woods and trees at the heart of their communities and help feed ideas and stories into the building of the charter. The 48 Charter Steering Group organisations are also looking to recruit local ‘Charter Champions’ who will ensure their community is represented in this ambitious project, able to seize this unique opportunity to define the future for woods and trees in the UK and make their voices heard.

Guidance and information will be provided during the campaign to inspire and support local activities, and to help people create a lasting legacy in communities across the UK. Funding will be available for local events, activities and projects that reconnect people and trees. Anyone involved will be part of a UK-wide network of groups leading local events and will represent communities in this UK wide conversation about the future of woods and trees.

The charter will be rooted in stories and memories that show us how trees have shaped our society, landscape and lives. To kick the campaign off, the organisations involved are asking people from all corners of the UK to share their ‘tree stories’ of treasured or significant moments in their lives that would not have been possible without trees, to help create a charter that
reflects the true meaning and value of trees and woods to the people of the UK.

Beccy Speight, Woodland Trust CEO said: “Our collective ambition is for a charter that puts trees back at the heart of our lives, communities and decision making -where they belong. The charter will provide guidance and inspiration to allow us all to appreciate, preserve and celebrate our trees and woods for what they do for us in so many different ways. Inspired by something that happened 800 years ago, there is no better time than now to shine the spotlight again on the benefits that trees and woods bring to us all today and to future generations.”

Why does the UK need a new Charter for Trees, Woods and People?

Changing lifestyles, busy schedules, and increased ‘screen-time’ mean more people feel disconnected from nature and what it does for us today than ever before. Society and Government need to stop taking trees for granted, recognise and celebrate their huge contribution** to our lives, and take shared responsibility for securing their future.

Trees and woods are hugely valuable for our health, happiness and our children’s development. Only 51% of children achieve the recommended hour of physical activity each day (girls just 38%, compared with 62% for boys)1, and research shows that just having trees close to residential areas encourages increased outdoor exercise3. Other research highlighted that asthma rates in children fell 25% for every additional 343 trees per square kilometre2in their local area.

The State of Nature report shows 60% of woodland wildlife species surveyed are in decline across the UK4. In addition, habitat loss, through development and more intensive land use have contributed to increasingly fragmented habitats and species decline. Development, poor management and disturbance continue to threaten these fragments of habitat, and wildlife here is isolated and
vulnerable. Reductions in enrolments on forestry, land management and environmental courses compounds the problem through a lack of skilled and informed practitioners.

Valuable habitats are still under threat, the area of new woodland created annually continues to fall, far too few trees are being planted to achieve a better connected landscape, and the impact of tree disease will undermine this further. Research for the Woodland Trust by Europe Economics found that woods and trees deliver £270bn worth of benefits to society. This makes the call for a charter more important than ever.

Find out more at:


Notes to editor:

For more information please contact: Steve Marsh, Woodland Trust, press office
on 01476 581 121 or 07971 164 517 email

Rural Manifesto launched to challenge the elitism that dominates UK rural policy


The Land Workers’ Alliance and The Land magazine have joined forces to produce a rural manifesto which aims to challenge the elitism that dominates rural policy. The manifesto is also supported by the Family Farmers Association.

The manifesto was launched at the Oxford Real Farming Conference on 6 January. It includes 46 action points, on matters such a housing, land ownership, agriculture and rural employment. These all have the common aim of making Britain’s rural land and resources more accessible to a wider constituency of people.

The manifesto is aimed primarily at the progressive parliamentary opposition. Simon Fairlie of The Land magazine stated:  

“With a reinvigorated Labour opposition, and a body of Scottish Nationalists committed to land reform, we are now in a better position to challenge the dominating influence of the Country Land and Business  Association, the National Farmers’ Union, and Scottish Land and Estates.”

Rebecca Laughton of the Land Workers’ Alliance, and a market gardener, stated:

”For decades,  the number of farms and the number of farmworkers have declined remorselessy, while the cost of rural housing has become increasingly unaffordable. It is time we reversed these trends, and it is not rocket science to do so.”

A number of the action points are reproduced below.
The full manifesto,  including original illustrations by Clifford Harper, is attached as a pdf at the foot of this email. It is embargoed until 6 January.

For more information please contact:

Ed Hamer of the Landworker’s Alliance: 07858 381539 edhamer@…
Simon Fairlie of The Land magazine: 01297 561359 chapter7@…


• The Land Registry should not be privatized. The register of who owns which land should be completed, and made easily and freely accessible  on line. A cadastral map for each municipality should be made publicly available at council offices, as it is in countries such as France and Spain.
• The sell-off of county farms should be halted  (except where county farmland can be sold for development and the proceeds used to acquire more or better land). Local authorities should be re-empowered to acquire land for rent to small-scale farmers and new entrants where there is a proven need.
• Common Agricultural Policy direct subsidies should be capped at €150,000 per individual farmer, releasing an estimated £4million. The ceiling should be lowered progessively over time to a level that supports a wider range of thriving family farms.
• Much organically produced food and animal feed is not labelled as such because the costs of certification are too high for small-scale producers. The burden of labelling and certification should instead be borne by farmers who employ chemicals or other ecologically suspect practices, rather than by organic farmers. In other words, food products that have been produced using artificial fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides or genetically modified materials should be clearly labelled as such.
• Increase investment in council housing and social housing in villages.
• Measures should be taken to ensure that recently introduced  government support for self-build housing is focussed on affordable housing, and not luxury housing. 
• All  rural local authorities to set targets within their area for the reduction of carbon emissions through renewable energy generation, including solar, wind and micro-hydro — especially community schemes; and through energy saving measures such as insulation of buildings. 
• Support should be provided for the creation of “village service stations” in rural settlements that combine retail provision of food and essential goods with post-office and banking services, car-hire and minibus services, etc
 • Include land management (horticulture, arable crops, animal husbandry, forestry etc) as a subject at secondary schools on a par with academic subjects.
• Reintroduce the fuel duty escalator, a ratcheted annual increase of carbon tax on petrol and diesel, including red diesel, with the proceeds earmarked for public transport provision.