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Forest Enterprise, Britain's biggest land manager, is to be split up into three separate agencies at the beginning of April.
The agencies, one each for England, Scotland and Wales, will replace the GB agency that currently manages the Forestry Commission's million hectare estate - 800,000 hectares of which is forest and woodland - some 30 per cent of Britain's woodland cover.
The move follows a post-devolution review of the administrative arrangements for delivering forestry policy. The Forestry Devolution Review found that while the Commission had adapted well to devolution and should remain as a GB body , there was still scope for further change. Among its recommendations it called for tighter integration of Forestry Commission policy development and delivery with the three countries' other rural policy work, and the decentralisation of Forest Enterprise.
Each new agency will have a Chief Executive reporting to the Forestry Commission's Director in that country. To ensure that the needs of the three countries are properly recognised, activities, targets and objectives will now be set at country level rather than on a GB basis. Over the coming months there will be wide consultation in each country as to what these should be.
The agencies - as yet to be named - will retain Forest Enterprise's 2,200 staff, the majority of which are employed in rural areas. The current Territorial Directors in England and Wales, Geoff Hatfield and Bob Farmer, have been appointed as Chief Executives of the new bodies in those countries. In Scotland, Bob McIntosh, Director Scotland, will be acting Chief Executive until a permanent appointment is made.
Forestry Commission Chairman, Lord David Clark, said the moves would allow the Commission to improve its services to the three administrations:
Following a separate review of the Commission's Forest Research agency, Ministers agreed that a single body, covering the whole of Britain, continued to be the best way forward. The agency's five-year review concluded that it enjoyed strong support from its stakeholders, particularly for the quality of its research, scientific services and development work. A new Chief Executive, Professor Jim Lynch, was appointed last month.
"The Forestry Commission has steadily devolved its structure and the way it works since the new Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were created in 1999.
"Creating the new management agencies will take these moves a significant stride further and ensure that we can clearly focus on delivering the forestry strategies, and the wider rural agenda, of each of the three countries."
Notes to Editors
1. The appointments of FC Directors for England, Scotland and Wales were announced in FC news release 5631 (25 February 2003). Prof Lynch's appointment was announced in FC news release 5635 (18 February).
2. Further information on the Forestry Devolution Review is available on the Commission's website at www.forestry.gov.uk/fdr