Response from Save Sandlings Forests campaign [i]

The Forestry panel requested our views on five questions . The text of the submission  in response to these questions is shown below. 

  Click  here to view the cover page that preceded the submission.  

Question 1 – What do forests and woods mean to you ?


Sandlings Forests mean many different things to those who use or visit or are involved in them. They are much loved and used by local people and visitors and are important for access and recreation, for timber production, for the local economy and for biodiversity and the environment.


The forests are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the much visited coastal area of East Suffolk. It is a rural area with limited alternatives for recreation because most of the land is privately owned and mainly used for agriculture. Users come not only from rural areas but also from towns and villages that include areas with social and economic problems.


Sandlings forests (comprising Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich forests) cover about 3500 ha, approximately the ninth largest public forest in the country. The forests are run as multipurpose forests in which timber production is very important, forests are managed to enhance biodiversity, and much work is done to support recreation for leisure and health. The forests are a Special Protection Area in which clear felling and restocking methods of timber production and maintaining clear areas are essential for maintaining the nationally important populations of woodlark and nightjar[ii].


The forests were originally planted in the 1920s on poor sandy soils as coniferous forests for timber, and the Forestry Commission has over many decades been reshaping them (helped by the dramatic impact of the 1987 great storm) into a mosaic of conifer, broadleaf and heathland habitats that are important for wildlife.


Our forests are widely used by a large range of organised groups as well as casual visitors. There is an impressively long list of user groups and activities that take place and the Forestry Commission play an important role in facilitating many of them. Activities include general walking and dog walking, walking for health, horse riding, cycling and mountain biking, carriage driving including for wheelchair users, husky racing, orienteering, use by families (with impressive play facilities), camping, use by the armed forces, using education facilities, conservation studies, to name just the most obvious ones[iii].


The Sandlings recreation strategy suggests that 4 million visitors’ day trips a year are made to the area, and half a million people stay overnight in the area[iv].


A more recent and detailed survey of two of the three Sandlings forests (Rendlesham and Tunstall) found that 950,000 visitor day trips are made per year, meaning the figure for the whole of the forests is considerably more than 1 million[v].


Sandlings forests are important for the local economy, in particular for small businesses such as cycle hire, food kiosks, local pubs, shops, bed-and-breakfast, and locally revenue from tourism is extremely important.


Question 2 – What is your vision for the future of England’s forests and woods ?



Question 3 – What do you feel to be the benefits of forests and woods to:


 a) you personally;

Members of Save Sandlings Forests campaign value Sandlings forests highly and benefit from them in a wide variety of ways as outlined in answer to Question 1.


b) society as a whole;

Forests and woods


 c) the natural environment;

Forests and woods


The Forestry Commission is re-shaping Sandlings forests to ensure they provide a variety of habitats for wildlife. It is doing this in a measured way, balancing the value of forests in mitigating climate change and providing alternative energy sources with priorities for conservation and access, and ensuring they consult stakeholders and local people through Forest District Plans.


 d) the economy?


Question 4 – We would like to hear about your suggestions of practical solutions and good practice which can be replicated more widely.


Funding should be increased for the Forestry Commission rather than being cut. The Forestry Commission carries out multipurpose forestry on the Public Forest Estate, and has a role in encouraging good practice in forestry more generally.


All parts of the Forestry Commission work together to provide the services and carry out important functions. Forest Enterprise runs the Public Forest Estate, Forest Research carries out essential research which is of benefit to public and private forests and benefits from having the Public Forest Estate in which to do it, Forest Services plays an essential role in providing grants, felling licences, etc, while the administration and other corporate services are crucial to running the whole organisation.


Forestry Commission exemplifies good practice: It

·         runs all its woodlands sustainably under the international/UK standards of sustainability, ensuring sustainable timber harvesting and management and replanting, health and safety, recreation and access, biodiversity, protection of habitats and archaeology and other heritage concerns, and community and stakeholder engagement and consultation

·         uses Forest Design Plans as a crucial part of the Forestry Commission’s work


Question 5 – What do you see as the priorities and challenges for policy about

England’s forests and woods ?


The main priorities are


The main challenge at the moment is the government-imposed cuts in funding of the Forestry Commission by 25%, and the restructuring of the organisation. This should be stopped, at the very least until after the forestry panel has made recommendations and these have been considered. The cuts and redundancies will mean further loss of expertise, and the cuts in the funding of the Forestry Commission will mean that it will not be able to operate effectively and efficiently to continue to carry out the services it provides or to promote good practice in forestry.


The proposed restructuring of districts for Forest Enterprise and Forest Services is likely to be unworkable, and could mean the loss of local contacts, knowledge and experience. This contradicts the government stated aim for more localism in everything it does.


Tree disease is an important challenge, and it is essential that the Forestry Commission's Forest Research is fully funded to carry out essential work in this area, as well as on other crucial forestry issues[vii].


Broader challenges include combating climate change, and ensuring that public and private forests play their part in doing this. Trees and forests store carbon dioxide on a massive scale; however the conservation imperative to increase other habitats such as heath land will reduce the capacity of the forest to store carbon. The challenge is to balance these priorities.


[i] The Save Sandlings Forest campaign represents the views and concerns of various forest user groups and individuals who believe that our public forest estate should continue to be owned and managed as a national asset by a properly resourced Forestry Commission. We are members of the national Forest Campaigns Network. Contact details: Clive Coles, Alma Cottage, Bredfield, Woodbridge, Suffolk  IP13 6AD,; Imogen Radford,, 07932 137593.


[iii] ;


[v] South Sandlings Living Landscape Project: Visitor survey report, by Footprint Ecology, 2011


[vii] as examined by Parliamentary select committee recently