Recognising the key role which trees and woodland can play in addressing the climate and biodiversity crises are amongst the key aims of the new Tree and Woodland Strategy for East Lothian.

The strategy, which was approved at today’s meeting of East Lothian Council’s Cabinet and follows the Council declaring a Nature Emergency in 2023, has three main parts:

  • Strategy vision
  • Spatial guidance
  • Delivery

The vision is: ‘Expanded and sustainably managed networks of woodland and trees across East Lothian contribute to addressing climate change, and provide a healthy and resilient environment, nature recovery, a strong sustainable economy, and enhanced quality of life for local communities.’

The strategy will guide the delivery of two million trees for the East Lothian Climate Forest. This aims to help the Council reach its target of a net carbon neutral East Lothian, whilst also delivering biodiversity, landscape, health and wellbeing and green network benefits. Working in partnership with communities, landowners and producers this will see the planting of two million trees between 2021 and 2031, increase the urban tree canopy and expand the network of hedgerows.

While the strategy has no end date, its focus is on the next 10 years. It will help fulfil the council’s legislative duty to promote sustainable forest management.

Following an extensive period of public engagement last summer, the strategy was revised to take account of public comments. This included changes to recognise respect for woodlands and their users and the importance of sustainably managed commercial woodland.

At the Cabinet meeting, members raised concerns about possible unauthorised incidents of tree felling. Members were advised that most tree works require permission or notification whether as a felling permission from Scottish Forestry or from the Council for Conservation Areas, Tree Preservation Orders and Planning Permissions. Advice is to check before you fell. The Council keep records of tree works notifications for Conservation Areas and permission for work for Tree Preservation Orders. Anyone concerned about tree felling should contact the council for advice or further information.

Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“While East Lothian has comparatively low levels of woodland, we are an area experiencing significant change, particularly as we play our part in delivering national housebuilding targets.

“The publication of the Tree and Woodland Strategy for East Lothian, based on community feedback, will ensure that trees and woodland can help us address the climate and biodiversity challenges we are dealing with as a society.

“Positive steps such as significant new tree planting can help us play our part by absorbing carbon, while helping to improve the resilience of East Lothian’s environment.

“The strategy can also help us maximise benefits for local people in terms of opportunities for recreation and improved health and wellbeing.

“An action plan underpins the strategy, which will help us make positive progress over the next decade and give us a basis on which to expand woodland in the longer term.”

Councillor Colin McGinn, Cabinet Spokesperson for Community Wellbeing and Sport, Countryside and Leisure, added:

“I welcome publication of our Tree and Woodland Strategy, which is a very positive development. Linked to the role it can play in addressing climate and biodiversity challenges, I believe the strategy can help collective efforts to support and maintain East Lothian’s countryside, which are much valued by local residents and visitors alike. It also recognises the important role played by our Countryside Rangers.”

The strategy is available on our website (item 8): Agendas, reports and minutes | East Lothian Council

Published: Wednesday, 15th May 2024