Devon Tree and Woodland Strategy

Key partnersThree children holding a spade each and some tree saplings on an Autumn day

The key partners involved in leading the development of the Devon Tree and Woodland strategy include: The Woodland Trust and Devon County Council. The Devon Tree Strategy Steering Group includes representatives from protected landscapes, Natural England, the Forestry Commission, Devon’s District Councils, and other relevant organisations. It is led by the Woodland Trust.

Working with partners across the county, the Woodland Trust has appointed Eunomia as the lead consultants to create a tree strategy for Devon. Eunomia will be supported by Devon Wildlife Consultants and Forest Research.

  • Devon Tree Strategy Steering Group members

    Alex Whish, South Hams District Council

    Alistair Jeans, East Devon District Council

    Andrew Jones, Natural England

    Andy Bell, North Devon Biosphere

    Becky Hughes, Natural England

    Bella Birch-Hurst, Devon LNP

    Bill Horner, County Archaeologist

    Chris Avent, Plymouth Council

    Graeme McVittie, Exmoor National Park

    Jane Hart, Tamar Valley AONB

    Martin Longley, Natural England

    Matthew Odgers-Brown, Forestry Commission

    Melanie Croll, Devon County Council

    Roger English, South Devon AONB

    Rosie Cotgreave, Devon Wildlife Trust

    Rosie Walker, Woodland Trust

    Sarah Jennings, County Ecologist and LNP manager

    Tim Jarratt, Mid Devon District Council

    Tracy Brooks, Torbay Council

    Will Dommett, East Devon Council

  • The strategy

    The strategy will cover Devon county as a whole, including the geographic areas of Torbay and Plymouth. It is expected that the strategy will include:

    • Baseline mapping of existing tree and woodland cover in DevonA cycle trail in the summer line with trees
    • Opportunity mapping for future tree planting

    It will provide guidance on:

    • Planning and development – including suggestions for policy wording and targets for new developments
    • Private land management and improvement – including an outline of financial incentives
    • Protection of existing trees
    • Agroforestry
    • Commercial and sustainable forestry
    • Climate resilient planting, adaptation and mitigation

    The strategy will have a county-wide, connected approach and will support the Nature Recovery Network. It will feed into the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) development that is also ongoing in Devon at this time and covering all habitat types. It is envisioned that The Devon Tree and Woodland Strategy will form a chapter within the LNRS.

    There are five main working phases to the development of the strategy, these include:

    • Research
    • Baseline mapping
    • Stakeholder engagement
    • Identifying priority spacial areas
    • Development/action planning

    It is expected that the strategy will be completed in the Autumn of 2023.

    Latest update on the strategy development

    The Devon Tree Strategy Steering Group met with the consultants at Eunomia for the first time at the beginning of November 2022. Eunomia and the group agreed an approach to producing the strategy and discussed how this will support work on trees and woodlands across Devon, positive outcomes from the strategy and mapping. The steering group met again in December to discuss the strategy vision statement and structure. A wider stakeholder workshop was held on 28th February 2023, the aim of which was to prioritise actions for the strategy action plan. Another workshop was held on 10th March and brought together tree officers, planners, green infrastructure officers and ecologists to discuss how planning policy can be improved for trees, hedges and woodland across Devon.

    • What has been achieved so far


      • Stakeholder mapping – who to engage with and how
      • Developed a schedule of monthly steering group meetings
      • Survey launched – in first round for the steering group and selected, interested parties
      • Wider stakeholder workshop (Feb 28th) – focussing on prioritising actions for the strategy action plan. Eunomia are currently distilling outputs from the workshop into an action plan.
      • Engagement with the LNP working group (1st March), focussing on getting feedback on the four strategy themes: Protect, Improve, Expand, Inspire
      • Planning and Policy stakeholder workshop (10th March): aiming to discuss how tree-related policy can be improved in Devon’s development plans
      • Following the Planning and Policy workshop, a Task and Finish group is being identified with the aim of: consolidating outputs from the workshop and creating model policy wording relating to trees, hedges and woodland that can be adopted by development plans at all scales.


      • Research into national policy context and comparison of other tree and woodland strategies
      • Research into understanding the different needs of the three main urban areas
      • Research into understanding the Dartmoor context
      • Research into understanding lessons learnt and challenges from existing tree initiatives
      • Mapping outputs are being explored, including baseline mapping using nationally available datasets and opportunity mapping for landowners.
      • Setting appropriate targets per district
      • The strategy document is currently being drafted
    • Steering group meeting: 1st November 2022

      Devon Tree and Woodland Strategy kick-off meeting 1st November 2022

      Eunomia outlined the purpose of the strategy and their approach to its development and stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder engagement will include monthly meetings with the Devon Tree Strategy Steering Group, a workshop with a wider group of stakeholders and interviews with selected individuals. The purpose of the strategy as outlined by Eunomia is:

      1. To form part of the Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS)
      2. To give local organisations and landowners tools to make use of funding opportunities by providing clarity on the funding mechanisms and clear rationale for projects.
      3. To contribute to National targets set in the England Trees Action Plan
      4. To feed into planning process and use this to support trees.
      5. To build on and support related strategies in the area such as Green Infrastructure, Health as well as feeding into corporate policy and actions of Devon County Council, Plymouth and Torbay, the District Councils, and protected landscapes.

      The first group discussion was centered around the desired aims and outcomes of the strategy, which included:

      • To provide a tool that developers can use when planning, to consider green infrastructure and protection of existing trees from the outset
      • To create connectivity and nature recovery networks
      • Joined up approach with the LNRS
      • Mapping outputs that compliment LNRS
      • To clarify/help conflicting issues highlighted during formulation of Right Place, Right Tree guidance e.g. respecting past vs meeting future needs, native vs non-native particularly relating to rural/urban and climate resilience.
      • Guidance on agroforestry, wood pasture, silviculture, timber industry, plant health, diseases and pests
      • Link to Devon Carbon Plan and delivery on relevant objectives
      • To provide guidance/input to local plans – site allocations – the natural capital value/potential of existing sites.
      • Review of management – squirrel, deer, beavers, other woodland species

      The final discussion focused on mapping and identifying the appropriate data needed for baseline mapping.

      • Outputs of the strategy need to be decided first as this will inform what data is needed.
      • It is important to identify maps that already exist to avoid duplication.
      • The strategy could help people interpret existing maps instead of creating new ones.
      • The strategy could produce opportunity mapping for tree planting- the scale of mapping needs to be considered for this option. This option avoids numerical targets – good thing?
      • Alternatively, less focus could be given to mapping and instead the strategy could be used as a political tool to encourage or discourage planting.
      • Important to use accurate baseline map of existing woodland which could lead to offering management advice as part of the strategy.
      • Where could the maps outputs be hosted and in what format? Options discussed: LNP website, DCC environment viewer, PDF
    • Steering group meeting: 15th December 2022

      Strategy vision statement

      Following the discussion in this SG meeting, the strategy vision statement was updated to:

      • Devon’s trees, woodlands and hedges are an integral part of Devon’s distinctive character and highly valued within all communities.
      • Existing tree and woodland assets are protected and sustainably managed to maximise the productive value and environmental benefits already being delivered.
      • New planting and natural regeneration is strategically managed to support climate resilience and connect habitats whilst protecting what is special and valued in the landscape.
      • Trees in towns and villages are used by all as community assets that strengthen a woodland culture.
      • Trees in rural areas are part of a healthy mosaic landscape and integrated into farmland through a diversified approach to productive agriculture.

      Strategy structure

      The strategy’s structure included 3 main concepts – ‘Protect, Improve, Expand’.

      Protect: No net loss of woody assets – existing assets are protected and where felling is necessary this is balanced with new planting.

      Improve: More of Devon’s woodlands are managed sustainably, balancing conservation concerns with the need for productive forestry.

      Expand:  More trees and woodlands in Devon to support national efforts to address climate change and nature recovery.

      It was suggested by steering group members that an additional concept be added to cover people and communities. This concept could also encompass celebrating trees and access to green space. The word ‘Inspire’ was chosen for this concept.

      Inspire: All of Devon’s residents have trees close to where they live and enjoy time in greenspace.

      A tacit agreement was made to use Protect, Improve, Expand, and Inspire and Eunomia are working on that basis.

      Target setting

      The Defra target, to support the UK Govt goal, in England is to plant 7500 ha per year by 2025. Devon makes up 5% of England’s land, therefore, Devon could have a target to plant 385 ha/year for the next 10 years.

      Other approaches to target setting that were discussed were:

      1. 1 new tree per resident (e.g. Norfolk – 1 million trees by 2025, Hertfordshire 1.2 million trees by 2030)
      2. Propose that all farmers aim for at least 10% tree cover on their farm (Wales SFI)
      3. Invite all landowners, large and small to pledge to devote an additional 5% of their land to trees/woodland/hedgerows.

      This was discussed in detail and it was agreed that targets should be created for each district and this should feed into a county-wide target. Each district has a different starting point in terms of percentage canopy cover which needs to be considered when setting these targets.

      Wider stakeholder support

      The SG agreed that a wider stakeholder workshop needs to be run for around 30 people focussing on people who are not in the SG. This will include foresters and sustainable timber managers, farmers and landowners, community groups, wildlife organisations, the National Trust, invasive species, education, and recreation representatives. The planned date for this is the 28th Feb 2023.

    • Wider stakeholder workshop: 28th February 2023

      On the 28th February, DCC, The Woodland Trust and Eunomia collectively ran a workshop for a wider group of stakeholders. The aim of the workshop was to identify important actions under the strategy themes of ‘Protect’, ‘Improve’, ‘Expand’ and ‘Inspire’ and to prioritise key actions. These will inform the shared action plan so that the strategy can coordinate action across Devon, Plymouth and Torbay.

      We had a brilliant turn out and had invited people from various sectors including, foresters and sustainable timber managers, farmers and landowners, community groups, wildlife organisations, the National Trust, other NGOs, and invasive species, education, and recreation representatives.

      Consultants at Eunomia are currently consolidating outputs and distilling key actions under the four themes ‘Protect’, ‘Expand’, ‘Improve’ and ‘Inspire’.
  • Planning and Policy Stakeholder Workshop: 10th March 2023
    On the 10th March, DCC and The Woodland Trust ran a workshop, with support from the FC and North Devon DC, with the aim of:
    • Exploring where gaps and inconsistencies are in existing tree-focussed policies, relating to the emerging Strategy themes of ‘protect’, ‘improve’ , ‘expand’ and ‘inspire’.
    • Distilling some key principles that will help in updates of local plan policies and achieve a consistent high standard on planning policy and guidance on trees, hedges and woodland across Devon.
    A planning Task and Finish Group has been formed comprising representatives from many planning authorities across Devon: [you could list people in a pulldown thing- see the DTWS acknowledgements] . The Group has been meeting every month since June to develop key planning policy principles and outcomes relating to trees, hedges and woodland that can be applied to development plans in a consistent way at all scales across the county of Devon.