NEW woodland creation continues to fall 'woefully short' of government targets, the Royal Forestry Society (RFS) has said.

The forest education charity said a 'seismic shift' is needed if government targets of 30,000 ha per year are to be met.

The comment came in response to the Forestry Commission's recently-published Provisional Woodland Statistics 2020, which revealed that 13,460 ha of new woodland was planted – a one per cent decrease from the previous year.

17 per cent of the planting was in England, one per per cent in Wales and two per cent in Northern Ireland. Scotland made up the overwhelming majority of new woodland planted – 10,860 ha.

RFS' recent survey report Woodland Creation Opportunities and Barriers stated that while many landowners and managers are behind the need for more woodland cover, they face significant obstacles in making the long-term commitment that converting land to forestry requires.

RFS chief executive Simon Lloyd warned that governments must engage with landowners to remove these barriers if targets are to be met. He said: "Most new woodland creation is on privately owned land and it is vital that government and devolved administrations engage with landowners.

"We are at a point in history where there will be a fundamental change in land use policy following Brexit and it is vital that in the forthcoming Tree Strategy for England and the Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS) in England, and its equivalents in the devolved administrations, we get it right.

"At the moment, many landowners are not convinced that the current grant systems make woodland creation viable and that needs to change if we are to see new well managed woodlands we would all welcome.”

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