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Forestry Commission operational update: COVID-19

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In common with most organisations dealing with the effects of COVID-19, 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 aim to continue our normal operational work as far as it is safe to do so – both for us and others.

As the situation continues to develop, we will keep our operations and advice under review in light of any new advice from government.

Please be aware that in common with other public service organisations, we expect that increased staff absences caused by COVID-19 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.

Office closures

  • National Office (Bristol)
  • Area Offices: Yorkshire and North East Area (York), North West and West Midlands Area (Penrith), East and East Midlands Area (Santon Downham), South East and London (Farnham) and South West (Bullers Hill)
  • Admin Hubs: East of England (Bucks Horn Oak) and West of England and Dedications (Bullers Hill – Haldon Forest)

Site visits and operations

Site visits have been suspended. This will be reviewed as government advice changes. The suspension also applies to site visits for grant applications. If you have recently submitted a claim, we will contact you directly once we have finalised our position.

We will continue to support the forestry sector by processing felling licences online. If COVID-19 restrictions continue, we will investigate ways to continue this service without the need for site visits. Work on illegal felling will continue, so please provide reports of anything suspicious via email to your local area office.

Grant claims will be processed, although this may take a little longer than usual, so please bear with us.

The site suspension does not apply to critical tree health work, which is outlined further below (in the Plant health forestry section of this page).

Contacts

While government restrictions are in place, please avoid sending post to our offices. As our offices are closed, we are not able to answer the phone.

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:

We are working with our partners on the impact of COVID-19 on Countryside Stewardship applications. We will communicate more on this as soon as we can.

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

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

Plant health forestry

In light of COVID-19, 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 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 and social distancing guidelines will be adhered to.

We are constantly reviewing official guidance in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak and if this situation changes, plans may have to be adjusted.

The nation’s forests – managed by Forestry England

The government has said the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home. Please do not travel to the nation’s forests at this time. Forestry England have closed car parks where it is possible to do so.  

Forestry England is working hard to care for the nation’s forests, keep you safe and support the timber industry during difficult times. Please respect them as they carry out their essential work. For more information, visit the Forestry England website.

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.

Published 3 April 2020

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