CONFOR has welcomed a new report which recognises the significance of tree planting in tackling future flood risks – but called for more ambitious and detailed proposals to drive this new planting forward.
The Cumbria Flood Action Plan sets out short-term actions to better protect 4,300 homes in one of the regions worst affected by the devastating 2015-16 floods, as well as long-term actions to help communities develop better ways of managing rivers and the land.
In his introduction to the report, Rory Stewart MP – the Minister responsible for forestry and MP for the Penrith and the Border constituency – describes the floods as "truly terrible" and "horrendous in their intensity".
He writes: "Now the most important task is to improve our flood defences for the long-term. So I have asked the Catchment Directors, as their next task, to re-examine the river systems in Cumbria, from the source to the sea."
Mr Stewart highlights tree planting as part of a range of measures to reduce long-term flood risks.
Jez Ralph, Confor's England Manager, said:
"It's welcome that the report highlights tree planting but it would have been good to see some more specific details of exactly what can be achieved in the Cumbrian river catchments by planting trees as well as a greater level of ambition.
"It is very encouraging to see tree planting becoming part of an integrated catchment level flood defence plan, which can also help hit governments tree planting targets - but the broader value of forestry to meet multiple objectives also needs to be recognised.
"The planting plans should be considered in upland and lowland areas and seen not just a contribution to flood defences. Tree planting also provides a valuable timber resource for future generations, bolsters the rural economy, delivers an attractive landscape and helps tackle climate change."
Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall highlighted the Forest Research report The Role of Productive Woodlands in Water Management (published in early 2014) and said: "This report by Tom Nisbet laid down a tremendous benchmark for what can be achieved in terms of water management by planting mixed woodland - and did so well in advance of the devastating floods which are the subject of this new action plan.
"Rory Stewart is right to highlight tree planting as part of the long-term solution but if we are really serious about reducing long-term flood risk, we need greater ambition and to see more detail of how tree planting can make a difference in each river catchment as part of an integrated flood management system to serve future generations."