Minutes of 25 October 2011 - Central Scotland Regional Forestry Forum

Present:
Simon Rennie, Chair
Nigel Hooper
Tim Hall
Meriel Young
Guy Watt
Sue Hilder
Robin Edgar
Linda McKay (Secretary)
Keith Wishart, FC Scotland
Stuart Chalmers, District Forester, FCS
Sheryl May, Head of FC Communications
Romena Huq, Engagement Officer, FCS

Apologies:
Stephen Garvin
Karen Moore
Guy Wedderburn
Steve Luker
Chris Norman
Grahame Buchan

  1. INTRODUCTIONS AND APOLOGIES
  2. . Simon Rennie welcomed everyone to the meeting. He introduced Sheryl May, Romena Huq and Stuart Chalmers all of whom would be covering agenda items during the meeting.
  3. Simon expressed his disappointment at the low turnout at the meeting.
  4. Apologies were received from Karen Moore, Stephen Garvin, Guy Wedderburn, Steve Luker, Chris Norman and Grahame Buchan.
  5. MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING
  6. The minutes of the previous meeting on 17 June 2011 were accepted as an accurate record with no amendments.
  7. MATTERS ARISING
  8. Para 7. Keith Wishart said that he had raised concerns with National Office and Neil Langhorn had confirmed he would raise the issue of sustainability standards with Scottish Government. Keith mentioned that Bob MacIntosh was a member of the Scottish Forestry & Timber Technology Group and that any further concerns could be directed to this group.
  9. Para 27. Keith confirmed that a meeting between Scottish Lowlands Forest District and the WLDC Planning division had taken place in early October to discuss West Lothian proposals. Unfortunately Chris Norman had been unable to attend.
  10. Para 33. Keith confirmed that a copy of the Grampian woodland report had been sent to Tim as requested.
  11. . Para 34. Keith explained that he and Simon had met to scope out some terms of reference for this piece of work.
  12. Keith said that it might require the resource of a Project Officer to manage this piece of work comprehensively. This would involve much preliminary work to take this forward followed by the provision of regular updates and other potential items for consideration.
  13. Simon Rennie confirmed that he and Grahame Buchan had discussed this matter.
  14. FCS LAND ACQUISITION & RENEWABLES PROGRAMME IN CENTRAL SCOTLAND
  15. Stuart Chalmers provided a presentation on acquisitions and renewables.
  16. He described the Partnerships for Renewables (PfR) process and explained that current investigations to identify potential sites were ongoing on the National Forest Estate (NFE) within several council areas.
  17. Simon asked if PfR looked at areas beyond the estate boundaries but Stuart replied that he did not think that this was the case.
  18. The group discussed the potential community benefits and the nature of the commercial relationship with energy companies through these new joint ventures.
  19. Simon Rennie asked about the potential for significant woodland losses as a result of the programme and the drive for new income generation. Keith noted that compensatory planting would be required where woodland was being removed.
  20. Stuart provided information on the current repositioning programme and explained the reasons for both disposals and acquisitions.
  21. He said that key acquisitions were required to deliver the WIAT programme, meet Government climate change targets for carbon sequestration and deliver new native woodland action plans.
  22. Stuart explained the business benefits and the rationale behind the acquisitions of existing woodlands.
  23. The group discussed the targeting opportunities and the priorities considered between conifer and broadleaf woodland.
  24. Robin Edgar explained that Fife is in the process of producing a woodland strategy document and asked for guidance on prioritising targeting opportunities for future Forestry Commission activity.
  25. It was agreed that it might be beneficial for Robin and Stuart to have a separate meeting to discuss this.
    ACTION; SC/RE
  26. FCS COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
  27. Sheryl May thanked the Forum for the opportunity to discuss the Communications strategy.
  28. Sheryl said that the main objectives for the Communications team were to raise awareness and appreciation of forestry, explaining the day to day relevance across many walks of life, and to engage with stakeholders by promoting activities and improving perceptions.
  29. She explained that there were 3 key themes i.e. Community Engagement, Economy and Climate Change and the Environment.
  30. Sheryl said that one of the main objectives was to raise awareness and understanding amongst MSP’s of the relevance and importance of forestry to local constituents. She explained that significant progress had been made however there was still some work to be done.
  31. The group discussed whether MSP’s saw forestry as relevant and thought that many MSP's would consider constituency and people issues to be more important than issues relating to the forestry sector.
  32. Sheryl replied that the Comms team relied on annual MORI research which showed a low level of awareness by MSP’s especially in urban areas. The Comms team had therefore issued the Forestry Matters booklet to MSP’s and local authorities and the FC had increased its profile through hosting a greater number of Parliamentary Receptions.
  33. Sheryl told the Forum that following the success of WIAT initiatives she was currently involved in finding ways to change the perceptions of farmers and landowners about tree planting and forestry.
  34. She explained that research results showed that negatives outweighed positives e.g. the grant process is believed to be very complicated by bureaucracy, interest is mainly driven by money and our organisation isn’t seen as being appreciative of the farmers’ perspective.
  35. Keith asked if any work had been carried out on public perceptions but Sheryl said the capacity and resource to achieve contact with all stakeholders is very difficult.
  36. Meriel Young suggested that there is a need to develop connections and promote forestry more widely as the urban perception is an issue and the public view was not always represented.
  37. Sheryl gave details of the future focus and challenges which the Comms team face and explained that the role of the Forum could be to identify gaps, provide views and ideas and suggest ways in which links could be created.
  38. UPDATE ON CENTRAL SCOTLAND GREEN NETWORK
  39. Simon Rennie distributed copies of the CSGN Vision booklet and explained that this was a 40 year initiative which had been signed off by Ministers and which consisted of 5 key themes.
  40. Simon explained the background and progress to date of the Central Scotland Green Network and said that the Green Network outcomes were extremely diverse i.e. addressing health inequalities, mitigating and adapting to climate change, making liveable places etc.
  41. Simon updated the Forum on the variety of partners now involved with the work of the Green Network and explained how progress was being made. He gave details of a number of on the ground projects and discussed funding opportunities such as the CSGN development fund.
  42. Keith Wishart commented that the sheer breadth and diversity of the work programme might prove challenging to deliver within the resources currently available. He suggested that there was a need to attract new partners and new investment to help deliver such an ambitious programme.
  43. Simon replied that the CSGN board would be meeting soon and Woodland Creation would be a topic for discussion.
  44. FCS ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMME UPDATE
  45. Romena Huq distributed copies of the Central Scotland Engagement Strategy 2010-2013 and the Many Trees, One Forest leaflet.
  46. Romena discussed the 9 diverse groups covered by equality legislation and explained that the main priorities initially had been to overcome barriers related to Race, Faith and Disability.
  47. She discussed the Delivery Plan and what had been achieved via Forest Kindergarten, Branching Out and Edinburgh Mela and provided examples of several events which had been very popular with ethnic groups.
  48. Simon Rennie asked if there was a gender split i.e. was engagement more with women than men and Romena replied that there was male participation but the concentration was on women to aid confidence building.
  49. Keith explained that the strategy aims to develop projects which are sustainable i.e. to develop champions and leaders who can then take projects forward by themselves, thus minimising barriers within groups.
  50. ANY OTHER COMPETENT BUSINESS
  51. Keith referred to the provisional programme for future meetings and asked for feedback or views on any other items which might be of interest to members.
  52. Guy Watt suggested a site visit perhaps to Scottish Hardwoods.
  53. Nigel Hooper mentioned that the Scottish Government are keen that policy issues are raised pre planning and there could be merit in perhaps arranging to have a good practice presentation on local strategies, frameworks etc.
  54. Keith agreed that he would liaise with planning colleagues.
    ACTION; KW
  55. Another suggestion was to invite someone involved in the Commonwealth Games 2014 legacy programme to promote the wider programme of activities and projects.
  56. Nigel Hooper asked if consideration could be given to starting future meetings slightly later to aid travel arrangements.
    ACTION; LMCK

    DATE OF NEXT MEETING
  57. Confirmation of availability for Spring and Autumn meetings in 2012 would be sought and confirmed early in the New Year.
    ACTION; LMCK
  58. Simon offered his thanks to the speakers for their interesting presentations and thanked everyone for their attendance and participation. The meeting was then formally closed.
  59.