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To: Steve Barclay, Secretary of State for Environment, DEFRA

SAY NO TO timber plantation killing prime farmland - plant for timber in marginal land instead

Photo by Melissa Askew on Unsplash

Halt Plans to smother 200 acres of thriving productive farm land with imported, conifer trees for private lumbering, on the edge of Stourhead. The Forestry Commission has ignored objections, not complied with its own consent rules, and ridden roughshod over any opposition from statutory bodies such as the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Forestry Commission needs to be accountable for:
• Destroying prime food producing land
• Scarring the AONB landscape
• Breaking their own rules
• Failing to conduct an Environmental Impact Assessment
• Failing to conduct a Landscape Visual Impact Assessment
• Falsely claiming the land to be “unfavourable”
• Awarding nearly £1m in taxpayer funded grant-aid on false premise

Instead of benefitting the environment, this forest will benefit a timber company. There is a place and a way to grow trees that do benefit the environment. For example, The Great Wood, Wiltshire, is replacing monoculture, coniferous trees with mixed, native, broadleaves for a biodiverse woodland that optimises carbon capture.

We must protect our prime farmland for continued food growth. Bonham farmland is classified as grade 2, Best and Most Versatile land, where the tenant farmer was producing 10t of grain per hectare.

We must protect the distinct feature of the open, greensand terrace, sweeping westward from White Sheet Hill, designated as an AONB, to be conserved, for its unique landscape across plains of rich, food producing fields as far as the eye can see.

We need to protect against the Forestry Commission marking their own homework, as judge and jury, to meet political tree targets at any cost. The consent process needs to be policed to ensure the Forestry Commission adhere to their own slogan to plant "The Right tree, Right Place, Right Reason."

We call on the government to:
• Prioritise prime farmland for food production – no exceptions
• Conserve the South West’s Cranborne Chase AONB
• Make the Forestry Commission accountable for their
dereliction of statutory duties

This is a disputed case with the AONB. AONB statement:

Why is this important?

High quality South West farmland, the renowned historic landscape and distinctly beautiful countryside of this area are at risk of irrevocable damage from planting the wrong trees, in the wrong place. The prospect sets a dangerous precedent for farmland across England being taken over for timber, or other greenwashing projects, approved through the back door, when it should be conserved for imperative food production to feed the nation.

Plant for commercial timber in marginal land, and do not blight this rare and spectacular, expansive landscape.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) should be conducted, at a bare minimum, in accordance with EIA regulations. Under the regulations this land, known as Bonham Plain, is a “sensitive area” (project of over 50 ha or where any part is in an AONB) Afforestation in a "sensitive area" is deemed to have significant impact on the environment, warranting an Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure a full understanding of the ramifications of planting here. It is duplicitous of the Forestry Commission to create regulations, designed to ensure their slogan "Right Tree, Right Place, Right Reason" , and then ignore them in their approval process. They have further violated the regulations by not providing any coherent reasoning for no EIA.

It is useful to note the failure of process that led to the Forestry Commission's errors in approving the forestry project for Wallshield, Northumbria, which they claimed to have learnt from:

The very same failure of process has led to the approval of Bonham Plain

Protect this top quality arable land to produce our food - plant for timber in marginal quality land

How it will be delivered

Via email and social media

Stourton, Warminster BA12 6PX, UK

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2023-11-17 18:27:28 +0000

500 signatures reached

2023-11-01 18:04:43 +0000

100 signatures reached

2023-11-01 13:41:32 +0000

50 signatures reached

2023-11-01 11:25:58 +0000

25 signatures reached

2023-11-01 09:46:08 +0000

10 signatures reached