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Evidence Gathered

In November 2008, Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs launched a wide-ranging study looking into how the Forestry Commission manages the public forest estate in England. The study will show how the estate contributes to society today and offer recommendations as to how it might sustainably serve society's long-term needs.

Whilst the full study is not yet complete, with final recommendations falling to Ministers, we are publishing summary responses and evidence as they become available below.

Extensive evidence was gathered during 2009 to inform the study:

  • Consultation – including:
    • formal public consultation
    • visitor questionnaires - reported on within consultation analysis report.
  • Social research into the economic, social and environmental values that people gain and expect from the Estate.


  • Economics research into the economic, social and environmental contribution of the Estate.



For more information on the process and materials used for the consultation please see the consultation pages.

A public consultation went out over a 12-week period in 2009, to a wide range of stakeholders.  The following documents are an independent summary of the over 2,200 responses to that detailed public consultation; as well as taking into account an additional 2,200 responses to a shorter questionnaire made available at the Forestry Commission’s visitor centres across England.

We are delighted with the volume and level of responses  - the summary notes people’s ‘passionate engagement’ with the public forest estate - and particularly that the majority of people see the Forestry Commission and public forest estate as ‘relevant to their lives’. Whilst the full study is not yet complete, with final recommendations falling to government, we are publishing summary responses and evidence as they become available.
The results are presented as:

Copies of individual responses to the consultation can be made available on request (where the respondent has given us permission to do so).  A charge may be made for this service.   Please contact  tel: 01223 346 017.

Social research

The aim of the research was to establish whether people have different perceptions and expectations of publicly-owned forests compared to those in other forms of ownership.
The results are presented as:

Economic Research

The aim of this research was to use economic valuation techniques to analyse the social, economic, and environmental contribution to public benefit of the Public Forest Estate and identify ways of increasing this contribution.

Key findings included the main sources of (socio-economic) value from the Public Forest Estate are, in decreasing order, recreation, greenhouse gas regulation and aesthetic value.  Overall, benefits are an order of magnitude greater than costs, in all scenarios.

Environmental Status

The aim of this report is to identify the contribution of the Public Forest Estate to the delivery of environmental benefits and specifically towards the Natural Environment aim of the Government’s strategy for England’s Trees Woods and Forest (ETWF)

Statistics highlighted include -

  • Between 2002 and 2009, there was a 12% increase of restoration to semi-natural woodland from 15,952 ha to 17,842 ha.
  • During 2004-2009, Native Woodland Habitat Action Plan habitats on the Estate have increased from 24,815 ha to 27,224 ha. These habitats now represent over 10% of the total area of the PFE and UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority open habitats have also increased by 10% since 2004.
  • The PFE includes 67,772 ha of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). Those classified as being in target condition rose from 71% in 2003 to 98% by 2009.
  • The heritage resource of the PFE is rich and when compared to the national position for risk to scheduled monuments, those on the PFE were considered at lower overall risk of loss or damage.

  • Environmental Status Report – the Public Forest Estate in England
  • Environmental Status Report - Annex 1


The Working Group discussed a paper on landscape issues for the PFE, agreeing that landscape was important but direct recommendations on changes to the PFE lay outside the scope of the Study.

Futures Workshop

The Study enlisted the Tomorrow Project to facilitate a discussion to explore the factors and issues that may influence the future changes and development of the Public Forest Estate.

Results from the day included -

  • The role of the PFE will need to change in response to needs from the environment, economy, society, public needs and politics.
  • Its potential value to the public will generally increase.
  • Land–use and climate change will create high demand for the PFE to be permanent, resilient and managed to a high quality.

  • Futures Report – output from one-day workshop