Forestry Commission operational update: coronavirus

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The information on this page was updated on 7 August 2020.

In common with most organisations dealing with the effects of coronavirus, the Forestry Commission is following government guidance and taking all steps necessary to protect our staff and help prevent the spread of the virus.

We know that many people rely on our services. We have continued our normal operational work as far as it has been safe to do so – both for us and others. Many of our staff are still working from home to serve our customers, but we are also carrying out priority site based work, as well as reopening some of our offices in a limited capacity.

As the situation continues to develop, we will keep our operations and advice under review in line with current government advice. We are working closely with other Defra delivery organisations and have adopted a common set of principles for deploying field staff in light of coronavirus. This reflects a common commitment to sharing expertise and good practice to the benefit of all.

Please be aware that in common with other public service organisations, we expect that increased staff absences caused by coronavirus will inevitably reduce our capacity over the coming weeks and months, despite our best efforts to minimise any disruption. We will use contingency planning to maintain our statutory and customer-facing activities and will publish any updates on changes on GOV.UK.

Offices

Whilst most of our smaller offices remain closed, some of our larger offices are already or will soon be operating on a reduced and limited capacity to ensure they COVID-secure for our staff.

We are not able to accept visitors to our offices at this point in time.

Site visits and operations

To support the sector, we are keeping our grant and regularity processes moving and undertaking site visits where needed, as well as continuing with critical tree health work. Social distancing guidelines will be followed in all cases and site visits will only go ahead where it is safe to do so. Our approach will be reviewed as government advice is updated.

In the event of any temporary local lockdowns, we will assess our working practices and ensure the appropriate coronavirus local control measures are followed. In this instance we will only respond to significant plant health risks in these local areas if regulated outbreak measures are necessary.

We continue to support the forestry sector by processing felling licences online. In some cases your local Woodland Officer may request a site visit to finalise our decisions on applications. We will contact you if this is the case. Work on investigating alleged illegal felling will continue, so please provide reports of anything suspicious via email to your local area office. For other regulatory and grant related work we will assess all cases and progress remotely where possible, but we may still request a site visit.

Site visits for critical tree health work will continue. This is outlined in more detail below (Plant Health Forestry section of this page). Private forestry operations can continue where social distancing can be observed. Government guidance on this can be found on GOV.UK, under guidance for outdoor businesses and working safely during coronavirus in construction and other outdoor work. FISA have also published guidance for working safely during coronavirus in forestry.

Businesses should also look to advice published by trade associations and similar groups on how to apply government guidance to their sector.

Grants

We are working with our partners to minimise the impact of coronavirus on Countryside Stewardship applications, including working with Natural England to progress Higher Tier applications. In some cases, we may need to request further information from you to help progress your application. This may include a site visit.

If you have any problems meeting any application, agreement or claim deadline or requirements please contact Rural Payments as soon as possible:

While government restrictions are in place, please avoid sending post to our offices as we are working at reduced capacity and are unable to check this regularly. As we have limited staff working in our offices, we are still not able to answer the phone. Email is the best way to contact us.

For felling licences, legacy grant agreements or cases of illegal felling, please use the Admin Hub email addresses below. For details on which Admin Hub you need to contact, see our office contacts on GOV.UK.

Admin Hubs:

For grants and funds, contact:

For issues relating to Countryside Stewardship please contact Rural payments:

To report tree pests and diseases, use the Tree Alert online reporting tool.

For import and export queries (wood and timber products), contact plant.health@forestrycommission.gov.uk.

Plant Health Forestry

In light of coronavirus, Defra and the Forestry Commission have carried out a review of critical functions and have agreed that port inspections and export work are essential to enable the import and export trade to continue.

Regulated outbreak management of some high-priority tree pests and diseases will also continue, including oak processionary moth and the larger eight-toothed European spruce bark beetle. In all cases, work will be carried out safely with due regard to staff, public safety, and social distancing requirements.

We will continue to review this in line with government advice.

The nation’s forests – managed by Forestry England

For over 100 years, we have been growing, shaping and caring for over 1,500 of our nation’s forests for the benefit and enjoyment of all, for this generation and the next. We’ve built over 1,800 miles of walking, running and cycling trails, supply England’s largest amount of sustainably-sourced timber, and conserve the homes of thousands of plants and animals. When you visit the nation’s forests, remember it is your responsibility to follow the new guidance on staying safe outside your home.

Forest Research

Forest Research’s main research stations at Alice Holt in Surrey and the Northern Research Station near Edinburgh are open, but on reduced hours. All other Forest Research field stations are closed for the time being. The majority of staff are working from home. There are, however, a limited number of staff carrying out operationally essential work at research stations and in the field, as this cannot be undertaken from home. This includes vital tree health disease research and responding to plant health emergency events to support UK trade, public safety inspections, IT connectivity and support, research laboratory facilities management and security.

Other departments’ working practices

Below, you can can find updates on the working practices of:

 

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