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Dr Roger Smith meets Defra minister Lord Gardiner

4th January 2018

Lord Gardiner visited West Sussex during National Tree Week.

During the visit on 1 December Lord Gardiner was shown a centuries-old oak, estimated 1000+years, (right of centre of photo), one of several venerable trees that have survived to present day within Cowdray Park, near to Benbow Pond, Midhurst. This was the afternoon phase of a day-long event to support National Tree Week, hosted and facilitated by the South Downs National Park Authority, the Tree Council, and the Cowdray Estate.The theme of this phase, which involved myself, was ‘healthy trees, healthy landscape’.

The photo shows Defra Minister, Lord Gardiner plus private secretary and press officer, together with representatives and speakers from the Tree Council, Landscape Institute Biosecurity Working Group; Forestry Commission, Alice Holt Research Station; Horticultural Trades Association; South Downs National Park Authority; Cowdray Park (Head Forester); and Dr Roger Smith representing and speaking for CPRE Sussex

I was asked to start the afternoon phase by providing the Minister with an overview of the importance of trees and woodland in the Sussex landscape and the existential threat to our trees posed by disease, which I did; for disease using data published by Forestry Commission and West Sussex County Council.

I also emphasised the need for computer-based modelling/simulation to predict and show visually how the county’s treescape and therefore landscape might change over time; how the impact of disease on trees could or would be exacerbated by climate change; and overall consequences for biodiversity.

I advised, too, that the impacts of exceedingly high-levels of development now in prospect on woodland and its biodiversity should also be considered and modelled.

I explained that there is an urgent need for effective regulations, underpinned in law, to protect ancient woodland, ancient trees and veteran trees. I gave examples to reinforce the urgency of the need, including how, during the examination-in-public of Horsham District’s local plan, the examining Planning Inspector had advised the Council that there was no need for them to provide protection for ancient and veteran trees in plan policies.

Part way through the afternoon, Lord Gardiner discussed with me issues that I had raised in my presentation. Encouragingly, he is an advocate for and supportive of trees in towns/cities.

Dr R F Smith

Trustee CPRE Sussex and Protect Sussex Group Chair