7 Mar 2023

Blog: New forestry agreement with statutory consultees

Scottish Forestry has worked closely with NatureScot, SEPA and Historic Environment Scotland to produce a new agreement which promotes a more integrated approach to creating and managing Scotland’s forests and woodlands.

NatureScot, SEPA and Historic Environment Scotland are the ‘statutory consultees’ when it comes to woodland creation applications.

We spoke to Tim Gordon-Roberts at Scottish Forestry to dig a bit deeper on what the new agreement is all about.

tim Gordon Roberts

Firstly Tim, tell us a bit about the new agreement between the statutory consultees
The agreement provides a clear and consistent approach for conservancies and consultees to work to; and we’re publishing it as tool for those preparing forestry proposals, to see when and how to get advice from the statutory consultees.

The agreement recognises how incredibly important our forestry targets are, but it also recognises that they can’t be delivered in isolation. So, the agreement commits us to ensure that our policies for the historic environment, biodiversity, landscape, water and climate change, all complement each other.

This means we can deliver all the amazing benefits of forestry whilst protecting and enhancing the other critically important features of our landscapes.

What is important about the statutory consultees – what is their role in woodland creation applications?
The statutory consultees are experts in their field. They provide data, guidance and advice relating to site features, as well as issues that could be impacted by forestry operations.

For woodland creation applications, the applicant should contact the relevant statutory consultee(s) as early as possible. They are there to help us all design high quality woodland schemes that meet the owners objectives, as well as respecting the importance of the site. This will ultimately result in applications that can be processed efficiently and without any last minute surprises.

Finest Woods Awards

Why have we changed to the new agreement – were the previous agreements not doing the job needed?
The previous individual agreements with SEPA, Historic Environment Scotland and NatureScot were due to be reviewed. It was considered that it would be better to have one easily accessible agreement to promote a consistent and coordinated approach by the agencies as they work together to achieve the Scottish Government’s forestry ambitions. This agreement will be reviewed again in 2027.

Do we think the new joint agreement is clearer for everyone?
I hope so! We have also included a case study based on a woodland creation scheme in Midlothian to show how the agreement can work in a real life scenario.

Does the new joint agreement mean applicants have to do anything different?
No, the agreement summarises what should already happen.

All our guidance relating to the preparation and submission of forestry proposals to Scottish Forestry emphasises the need for early engagement with all consultees.

Oak canopy small

Are we finding that applicants are not engaging with the statutory consultees at the right time – any advice?
Unfortunately this is still happening. My advice when preparing any forestry proposal, would be to:

- Check and follow the relevant guidance
- Check the new joint working agreement to see if you need to consult with any of the statutory consultees and if so engage with them as early as possible. Do this before you start to design the proposal
- Consult all other parties with a relevant interest
- Keep your Conservancy up to date
- Only submit your application once all the issues raised have been fully resolved – this should be clearly described in the issues log.

You hosted a really popular webinar on the new agreement – did you get useful feedback?
Yes, it was fantastic to see so many people on the call, particularly at this busy time of year. Most people enjoyed the event and got a lot from the practical advice from the applicants preparing the proposal and the statutory consultees. 

The webinar was recorded and is available here.  

Tim GR