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Sustainable Forestry

View from Alice Holt forest.All Forestry Commission woodlands are managed using approved Forest Design Plans and the following paragraphs explain all about these documents.

What are Forest Design Plans?

Forest Design Plans (FDP's)show how the Forestry Commission will manage its woodlands in a sustainable way and how they will contribute to the achievement of forestry policy targets. The plans explain how individual woodlands will benefit the landscape and economy of an area while creating increased opportunities for recreation, heritage and biodiversity. Each Forest Design Plan shows in some detail how we will manage a group of woodlands over the next 10 years. It also outlines the plans for the following twenty and describes how the woodlands will look in thirty years time.

How are these plans produced?

Plans are produced by the Forestry Commission’s planning team who consult with and take advice from a wide range of organisations and local communities. This is something that we have undertaken over the past few years throughout the Forest District

Can I really make a difference to the plans?

Absolutely. It is very important that we have an input from people who have a detailed knowledge of their local woodlands. We invite comment at each stage of the forest design plan process using local press, public drop-in days, personal letters and posters in the woods. Amendments are frequently made to forest design plans in response to comments made by our stakeholders. In fact, the forest design plan process has been designed to make this possible.

Why are these plans so important?

Many people think that woods are better left untouched and that a wood left to nature becomes a haven for wildlife. However, in the small fragmented woods that we manage today, sensitive management maintains a diversity of habitats, including open space, and this allows our native woodland plants and animals to thrive.

There are lots of things that we can do to make our woodlands better places to visit, to attract more wildlife and to contribute to their upkeep. Forest Design Plans help us to take a strategic view of our woodlands and to find a balance between the social, economic and environmental benefits that they can provide. They are all about showing how our woodlands will help to create better places for people to live, bring about an enhanced environment with greater biodiversity, make a stronger contribution to the economy and secure a future for our woodland resources.

What will the plans do?

Every woodland managed by the Forestry Commission is different and this is reflected in the Forest Design Plans for each area within South East England. In some areas, conservation or recreation may have the highest priority while in others, the provision of timber may be an important benefit.

A Forest Design Plan shows where thinning, felling and planting will take place to achieve the vision set out in the 'How are the plans implemented on the ground?' section

Once a forest design plan has been approved, it is implemented over the next 10 years through a series of site planning documents, known as Operational Site Assessments. This process is carried out prior to the start of forest operations (e.g. tree thinning) and is crucial to the management of our woodlands. As part of the Operational Site Assessment, reference is made to the forest design plan and further research is carried out into the site records and management plans that exist for a woodland. Local staff also make field visits to survey and identify site specific interests and outline the constraints and opportunities that are relevant to the site at a level of detail that is inappropriate in a forest design plan. Experts are often invited to provide on-site information and local users and neighbours of the woodland are engaged through the use of site signage and letters.

How will forestry operations affect me?

During some operations, e.g. felling and path building, signs are erected to warn of the presence of forest operations and to restrict access to the immediate work site for the safety of both the public and workers. Additional signs provide site-specific information about the work, including its duration. After work has finished, lorries may still be coming in and out of a woodland to collect timber. Warning signs are therefore left up until this has been completed.

Do forest design plans include proposals for new recreation facilities?

No. Where opportunities arise for the improvement of an existing recreation facility or for the installation of a new facility, e.g. a new car park for horse boxes, the Forestry Commission must first check that this is in keeping with the Design Concept set out in the Forest Design Plan. An application for Planning Permission is then made to the local Planning Authority.

Design Concept

Many of our Forest Design Plans in South East England show where non-native plantations on ancient woodland sites will be gradually restored to native woodland species. As a result of this management, the overall proportion of broadleaf trees, such as oak and ash, will gradually increase over the next few decades.

Useful links

The UK Forestry Standard (PDF 31MB)
The UK Woodland Assurance Standard 2nd Edition.

Last updated: 7th July 2018

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