Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

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Hugh Chalmers
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Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

Postby Hugh Chalmers » 14 Oct 2016, 12:54

Any thoughts or comments on this email I sent to Jim MacKinnon, who has been asked by Fergus Ewing to look into the FGS planning process? This follows on from the talk by Stuart Goodall, Chief Exec of CONFOR at the RS gathering last Saturday in Moffat.

Jim emailed me back a few minutes later to say

'Mr Chalmers

Many thanks for this perceptive and balanced contribution.

Jim MacKinnon'

From: Hugh Chalmers []
Sent: 14 October 2016 11:22
To:; Donald McPhillimy; RS Directors
Subject: Review of the process for agreeing decisions on Forestry Grant Schemes. Opinion from Hugh Chalmers MCIEEM

Dear Mr McKinnon,

I would like to take this opportunity to make some brief comments on the Forestry Grant Scheme as it stands now. The opinions are my own, but I am a Director of Reforesting Scotland, a Trustee of Borders Forest Trust and currently work full time with Tweed Forum as Collaborative Action Coordinator, and this role includes acting as an agent to apply to FGS. In fact my first grant scheme application was in 1986, with the Broadleaved Woodland Grant Scheme. In the last 20 years I have helped to draw up at least 40 FGS-type planting schemes, all of them native tree planting or similar, over an area totalling approximately 600ha, mostly in the Scottish Borders.

Perhaps because my role is particularly focused on native and riparian woodlands, I find the FGS process relatively straightforward and the local FCS staff very helpful, and I have not been affected by significant delays. There have been some frustrations regarding understanding landscape conditions, but nothing that was not resolved amicably. There have been delays due to the computer system, but I believe this is a wider SGRPID issue.

However, I have been involved on the periphery of a number of FGS type applications in the last 5 years where forest management companies have been keen to monopolise land for commercial forestry, as per the wish of their clients, and they have tried hard to do as little as possible to accommodate constraints to planting such as deep peat, black grouse and Forest and Water guidelines. However, it seems to me that many of the forestry management companies are now maturing in their attitudes, and that if they were more realistic in describing modern forest design to their clients, there would not be the pressure to try to take too much from a site. It is a matter of expectations.

Likewise, the issue or opportunity which comes with restructuring existing conifer woodland to conform with current Forest and Water Guidelines, landscape design, etc. Despite the fact that this may result in a loss of up to 25% of the previously planted area under old design principles, the new design does provide a sustainable model for forestry and land use and will result in greater resilience to climate change whilst providing other 'ecosystem services'.

I do realise that it is challenging to find areas to plant trees to meet Scottish Government Climate Change targets, and there are a number of initiative to persuade landowners and farmers to accommodate more trees on their land. The current FGS rates do go a long way to meeting establishment costs.

If forest management companies can manage expectations of their clients, then I'm sure they will be able to submit well thought through and well designed applications for for FGS support, which will not get 'stuck in the system'.

Best wishes

Hugh Chalmers BSc, MSc, MCIEEM

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Re: Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

Postby donald.mcphillimy » 17 Oct 2016, 11:21

I'm proud to be a trained forester and a member of various forestry bodies. I know many other foresters who work for community woodlands, individuals who have small woods, Forest Enterprise and Forestry Commission Scotland, private estates and forest management companies. All of them know about forest landscape design, water guidelines, forest ecology, protecting archaeology, community woodlands, etc, etc. All the foresters I know enjoy the challenge of blending these various perspectives together to produce a well designed sustainable forest. Now, in some cases, softwood timber ie wealth creation is the primary objective but no forest has only one objective (unlike agriculture).

So, I believe that almost all foresters appreciate and design well designed and multiple objective forests and that they are rapidly becoming the norm. That is in complete contrast to the simplistic plantations which were planted in the 50s, 60s and 70s under pressure to create a strategic reserve of timber.

The forest which Stuart Goodall described at the Reforesting Scotland Gathering at Jerrah, near Menstrie is such a forest, well designed and sustainable. It has native woodland areas and a well developed community woodland next to the town.

Now to responsibilities in this new enlightened era of forest design. The investors need to appreciate and adhere to what is now the norm. Many, as individuals, now actually enjoy visiting their forests, dominated as they are by Sitka spruce. The companies need to continue educating the investors and at the same time stop relying upon the Forestry Commission to critique lower quality schemes which are put in on the chance that they might be approved. It will save time, effort and sweat if only high quality schemes are submitted. The companies have shown that they have the ability to do this. Fergus Ewing should back off and stop pretending that red tape is being deliberately placed as an obstacle to new planting. We all want new planting but not by lowering standards. The problems come from the inadequate grant application process not from the desire to see well designed forests. This is where the streamlining should take place.

Finally, RS members and all others interested in land use in Scotland should get behind modern commercial forestry as part of the spectrum of afforestation which includes large scale native woodland expansion and small scale community and private woodland planting, in the uplands, lowlands and urban areas.

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Re: Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

Postby DayeTucker » 17 Oct 2016, 13:00

Oooft! "ie wealth creation is the primary objective but no forest has only one objective (unlike agriculture)."

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Re: Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

Postby donald.mcphillimy » 19 Oct 2016, 10:25

Hard to see a second objective for a field of barley.

Fred Conacher
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Location: Forfar, Angus

Re: Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

Postby Fred Conacher » 30 Dec 2016, 14:32

The farmer may like Whisky as well as profit!
Fred Conacher
Tel. 01307 473027

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Re: Review of decision making in the Forestry Grant Scheme

Postby dalancarter » 12 Jan 2017, 17:39

Jim Mackinnon's eventual report is available at ... nnonreport

Any thoughts? To me it looks pretty well balanced and helpful.

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