Inspired by Amsterdam's Bos Park and the German stadtwalder, the first three Community Forests were established in 1989. Pioneering work was undertaken to bring together a wide-range of interests in partnerships to agree comprehensive land-use plans, guiding strategic tree planting, whilst conserving & enhancing the wider natural environment (all with a strong community dimension and focused on delivering public benefit). Whilst titles for strategic land use planning to deliver public benefits close to where people live have changed, they are essentially reworking Community Forest principles.
The coherent & strategic planning of the Forest of Avon and the long-term partnership work to create it, have delivered significant public benefits to the Bristol & Avon area. It is encouraging that the achievements of the National Programme of Community Forests are increasingly being recognised by national Government, with a number of references to Community Forests in the 25-year Environment Plan. With the huge focus on trees, this should only grow.
The Forest of Avon Plan
The Forest of Avon was established in 1992. The Forest’s creation is guided by an detailed Forest Plan, which sets out strategies for the Forest’s creation over 221 square miles of land in and around Bristol. The Forest Plan was approved by a formal partnership including the Forestry Commission, the Countryside Agency (now Natural England) and the four West of England authorities in in 1995 and an updated version in 2002.
In 2005, partners above and Parish Councils in the ‘affected’ area formally agreed the expansion of the Forest of Avon boundary to include all of the West of England (outside the AONBs). All 4 local authorities agreed Planning Guidance for the FoA in 2005, although this predates the boundary change. There are also policy references to the FoA in all 2005 era Local Plans.
It is hoped, if funding can be secured, that there can be a refresh of the tree and woodland strategies for the whole Forest of Avon area in 2020, informing tree & woodland planting in the Avon/ West of England going forward.
Delivering Lasting Change
Guided by the approved Forest Plan, a small Forest of Avon team worked with partners across the area to deliver a wide range of projects. In the period to 2009, the partnership secured the planting of over a million trees, improved 1,000km of rights of way and other paths, brought over 500ha in to Countryside Stewardship Schemes and involved tens of thousands of volunteers.
The Forest of Avon Trust has been active since 2009 and this model honed over 10 years of independently securing funding, remains rooted in working flexibly with diverse partners, but is also successful in drawing down resources, with an attractive, community focused ethos and strong local charity brand.
For information on creating the Forest of Avon and how it can be model for sustainable development in West of England, please contact Jon Clark (CMLI MRTPI) here.
The Forest Plan can be accessed in the document viewer below: