Date lodged: 20 April 2017
To ask the Scottish Government what consideration it has given to the biodiversity benefits of reducing the threshold for which an environmental impact assessment for new woodland is required.
Answered by: Fergus Ewing 5 May 2017
The Scottish Government has only increased the threshold for forestry projects outside sensitive areas. There remains no threshold for forestry projects in sensitive areas and all woodland creation projects in those areas must undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Scottish Government has expanded the definition of sensitive areas to include areas of deep peaty soil to mitigate potential biodiversity and hydrological impacts.
In considering the options of changing the threshold for woodland creation projects outside of sensitive areas, the Scottish Government believes that the benefits of reducing bureaucratic burdens in low-risk areas by increasing the threshold will lead to more woodlands being planted. Reducing the threshold would therefore be likely to lead to a reduction in woodland creation with little evidence of a corresponding biodiversity gain.