The government’s tossing a few million towards a grand £500m “northern forest” (Government pledges £5.7m for northern forest, 8 January) is an example of the puny tokenism operating today, where acts of vandalism against our precious environment, such as HS2, can be so casually “offset”. HS2 is a folly, the stubborn imposition of a luxury fairground ride built over never-to-be-seen-again landscapes.
Improve what we have, protect the things that are good around us, cancel HS2. And for sure, plant some more trees (and not just pine and spruce, please – we don’t want more Forestry Commission-style bland industrial forestry). There are thousands of acres of aristocratic grouse-shooting estates all over the North Pennines and North Yorkshire, where trees are not allowed because they spoil all the fun of the chase. Wonderful places to plant some new trees, if the Tories really are suddenly into tree-planting.
Skipton, North Yorkshire
• Wonderful news about the creation of a northern forest, but not so wonderful if the Woodland Trust continues its narrow and rigid policy of “native species only”. All too often this means plantations of birch and rowan and field maple, producing scrub rather than woodland. Species such as sycamore – which have flourished here for centuries, without which counties like Northumberland would be treeless wastes, and one of which was named as the Woodland Trust’s Tree of the Year in 2016 – are bizarrely rejected, and excluded from the trust’s list of saplings available to local groups for reforestation.
It is a blind purist policy worthy of the Home Office at its most xenophobic, and equally self-destructive.
• The map of the new northern forest, with 50 million new trees, has a huge bite missing in the shape of the county of Lancashire. What have we done to be missed out? Is this a decision of the Woodland Trust, or the government, or has Lancashire county council refused to take part? Those of us who live in the Lancashire Pennines would like to know!
Liberal Democrat, House of Lords
• The government has shown great foresight in kickstarting the creation of a northern forest from Liverpool to Hull, and doing this so economically for just £5.7m. The new trees will mature just in time to provide the sleepers for Northern Powerhouse Rail’s new track to speed travel between these cities.
• Agreeing with Patrick Barkham (It’s the great forest con trick, 9 January) I would add that the actual con is the iniquitous legislation that allows the destruction of ancient woodland on the basis of development priority, and that it can be mitigated by planting another site elsewhere with saplings. It’s comparable with developing the Tower of London site and building a new replica Tower elsewhere as mitigation.
• The benefits of agroforestry, as outlined in Bibi van de Zee’s excellent report (The latest cutting-edge technology changing our landscape? Trees, 6 January), are indeed numerous, especially the contribution it can make to tackling climate change.
Growing more wood will also provide us with a feedstock for the emerging bio-economy. Finland and Sweden are leading the world in the switch from fossil fuels to wood, with the chemistry telling us that most products previously made from oil can in fact be made from wood.
Joined-up thinking, always a struggle for governments split into departments, is now needed. All regions need new forests and they, including the proposed northern forest, need to include a substantial component of agroforestry. This will increase wood production, which can be used to make products such as industrial sugars for the pharmaceutical industry or substitute for cotton in textiles.
A big climate win would be a significant shift from using concrete in construction, responsible for 8% of global carbon emissions, to using timber instead. Vienna is currently building a 24-storey wooden-framed building that will outstrip the world’s current tallest in Vancouver, at 18 storeys.
So let’s hope the tree-planting Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is talking to the housebuilding DCLG (renamed this week as the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government).
Paul Brannen MEP
Labour, North East England; environment committee, European parliament
• Let them eat wood. Between Oxford and Cambridge, a million homes, industry, jobs, infrastructure. Between Liverpool and Hull, a million trees.
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