The Strategic Environmental and Economic Investment Plan for Oxfordshire (SEEIP) has been launched today, aiming to deliver economic growth in Oxfordshire. The Sylva Foundation has helped bring together a range of organisations under the Oxfordshire Forestry Accord to maximise the value of the county’s woodlands.
The SEEIP will provide direction and clarity on how investment in the Oxfordshire’s environment will be delivered. It is one of a series of investment plans which will sit under the Strategic Economic Plan, and will help to deliver its ambitions for economic growth in Oxfordshire up to 2030.
Talking about the launch today, Paul Orsi of the Sylva Foundation said:
“a thriving forestry sector in Oxfordshire offers a strong business case for environmental investment given that forestry is a natural meeting place between ecology and the economy.”
Woodlands occupy around 7% of all land in Oxfordshire, which is below the national average for England and significantly lower than the average in Europe of 37%. These woodlands are fragmented, with mainly small pockets of woodland scattered across the county in private ownership. The greatest density of woodland cover can be found in the Chilterns AONB in the south east corner of the county.
The forestry sector in Oxfordshire has declined in recent decades with the closure of sawmills, leaving a legacy of under-managed woodlands with limited financial, ecological and amenity value. Further challenges to woodlands include climate change, which has the potential to affect growth and health of key species and could result in increased damage due to storms, heatwaves and drought. If this situation can be turned around, the Sylva Foundation and the Forestry Commission estimate the additional value of a thriving forestry sector to Oxfordshire’s economy at £10 to £15 million, with the market for woodfuel and timber products helping to bring woodlands back into sustainable management and reducing reliance on subsidies.
As part of the preparation of this investment plan, representatives of several organisations met to draft the Oxfordshire Forestry Accord, which sets out how they will work together to maximise the value of Oxfordshire’s woodlands. This includes a number of initial, short-term outcomes to ensure that future work to maximise the value of Oxfordshire’s woodlands is targeted, efficient and effective. Analysis of data held by the Forestry Commission will establish the current extent and condition of woodlands in Oxfordshire in more detail and enable an estimate to be made of the theoretical extent of the timber resources which could be produced in the county. Further work will then be undertaken with a wider group of stakeholders including woodland owners and managers to identify realistic opportunities for increasing productivity from Oxfordshire’s woodlands and adding value to woodland products and services within the county.