Church Estates: Rewilding, Tree-planting and Sustainable Farming

Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 17th June 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What plans there are for rewilding, tree-planting and sustainable farming on Church estates.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

What steps the Church of England is taking to increase planting and rewilding on its land.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Ahead of the new environmental land management schemes, we are undertaking a natural capital audit across our rural holdings. The report, which is expected later this year, will include a review of woodland management and new tree planting, including riparian planting.

Photo of Alex Sobel Alex Sobel Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The Church is a significant UK landowner, owning 105,000 acres of land, with a property portfolio worth over £2 billion. May I ask what plans it has for rewilding, tree planting and sustainable farming on its estates, as well as for being more transparent about what land it owns and how that land is used?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that like him I want to see a lot more trees planted. The Church in 2020 planted 1.1 million trees, on top of the 2.6 million we planted in 2019. Page 24 of the 2020 annual report shows our top 20 property holdings and our top 20 equity holdings.

Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

The Church of England is in the business of restoration. Yet over the centuries we have seen our natural habitats retreat into manufactured and managed landscapes, which are just ineffective at balancing our delicate ecosystem. As a significant landowner lagging behind the national ambition on rewilding as well as planting, what are the next steps the Church will take to build our natural cathedrals of woodlands and wildernesses ahead of COP26? How much will it invest in that project, and will it set a diocesan and local church challenge in this year of COP26 for them to play their part too?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

There was a lot there, but I will do my best. I can tell the hon. Lady that, of the 184,000 acres we own in total, 92,000 acres are timber, but she is right that there is more to do. I will be attending the Groundswell conference next week, as will some members of the Church Commissioners, along with a number of Environment Ministers, and we are very conscious of the important issues that she raises.