What is billed as the first ever UK woodland natural flood management guide has just been published. Given the high profile that flooding issues and “nature-based solutions” have had over recent years it is perhaps surprising that it has taken so long to do so. The detailed guidance is set out in a 48 page booklet titled “Designing and managing forests and woodlands to reduce flood risk” and is a joint effort between the Forestry Commission, Natural Resources Wales, Scottish Forestry and Northern Ireland Forest Service.
The publication makes interesting reading but leaves a residual question as to whether future access to planting and management grants will be subject to compliance with the guidance. If so, it is inevitable that that will significantly increase the costs and delays in obtaining approvals for planting schemes at any scale. We have experience of landowners finding the current application and approval process unreasonably cumbersome and difficult to navigate, particularly where they are looking to establish woodland on land that is already in some environmental stewardship options, and yet another layer of complexity and the need for further consultation will be an added disincentive to woodland creation.
On the other hand, if adoption of the guidance is not going to be a scheme requirement, it is difficult to see that it will make a significant difference unless it is accompanied by a sufficient uplift in the planting and/or planning grants to incentivise its voluntary adoption.
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