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Forest Planning and Management

Forester Simon smith with New Forest design plans.

The Public Forest Estate is a sustainable working forest and plays an important role in supplying the British timber market, managing habitats for wildlife and providing a recreational facility and employment for people.  Find out more about how we plan and manage the forest for timber, people and wildlife.

Harvesting Operations

Timber harvesting is important to the sustainability of the forest as it:

  • Provides room for the remaining trees to grow.
  • Provides timber for a variety of wood products used in everyday life such as furniture and paper.
  • Is an important income source for the Forestry Commission which supports recreation
  • Benefits wildlife through the creation of a patch work of open habitat and wildlife corridors

Harvesting operations happen throughout the year.  Visitors can look for updates on the forest pages listed in the left hand bar or visit Forest Plans and Operations East District.  Here you will find a list of all the forests in the East England Forest District which flags up when a site has operations taking place.  You can also access Forest Plans and provide feedback when plans come up for review.

Forest Planning

In order to manage the forest sustainably for different uses the East England Forest District has a planning team made up of staff with forestry, ecological, information technology and mapping skills.  The team prepares a range of plans for the area, all of which are used to guide management of the woodlands and open habitats. These include:

  • Strategic Plans which set out our District Policies and issues translated from national, regional and local policy. 
  • Operational Site Assessments which are prepared for each felling or thinning operation, prior to work taking place, to ensure that Forest Plans are correctly, accurately and safely implemented; and that rare or fragile habitats are identified and protected as work progresses.
  • Archaeological Plans for each of the scheduled archaeological monuments in the forest district to ensure that they are protected and preserved for future generations. These plans are developed in consultation with English Heritage, the statutory body responsible heritage and for ancient monuments.
  • Most of Thetford Forest has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and plans are developed with Natural England to monitor the condition of the SSSI and carry out work to enhance the habitats and sustain the species for which the forest has been designated.

These provide the basis for more detailed work plans and strategies including Forest Plans

Forest Plans

Forest Plans set out the medium and long-term aims for forest management based upon a set of Forest Plan Objectives which aim to:

  • Maintain or enhance existing habitats for nature conservation and landscape benefit
  • Create a sustainable mixture of forest and open habitats
  • Grow quality timber for future generations
  • Protect archaeological sites

These objectives take into account requirements from national and local policies and are further influenced by unique aspects of that particular forest, outcomes from stakeholder consultation and local issues. 

A series of 13 Forest Design Plans cover Thetford Forest, the plans are valid for 10 years but undergo a mid-term review to ensure that the objectives are still appropriate and that the plans are working effectively on the ground.  The Plans also provide the basis for the granting of a 10 year felling licence to cover the operations represented in the plan.

Forest Plans Consultation

The planning process provides an opportunity for you to comment on the Forest Design Plan for woods that you have an interest in. You can provide your feedback on Forest Plans up for consultation by visiting Forest Plans and Operations East District

A plan does not present detailed management operations and dates for each area of a wood. The plan is a medium term document with broad-brush proposals within it. More detailed site plans are prepared for each management operation as they come up. After all we cannot plan for natural changes in a wood, such as wind damage or the discovery of an important species that must be protected or a timber product that is in demand at the time of felling.   So any felling proposed within a plan is likely to be subject to minor changes during the life of the plan.  Major changes that require a plan to be re-written would be put back to consultation before being approved to go ahead.

Comments relating to concerns or issues with a specific footpath, gateway or any forest operations should not be fed back as part of the Forest Design Plan consultation process, but instead you should use this email address and include your contact details, the nature of the concern or issue and the name of the forest area or a Grid Reference.

Approval of a Forest Plan


A separate part of the Forestry Commission (Forest Services), which is not responsible for managing the Public Forest Estate, is required to check that a plan meets all the relevant standards and regulations before approving the works.  

Approved Forest Plans can be viewed by visiting Forest Plans and Operations East District 

Last updated: 10th August 2016


East England Forest District Office

0300 067 4500

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England's Woods and Forests are cared for by Forest Enterprise England, an agency of the Forestry Commission.