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Revisiting The Mersey Forest Plan

24 November 2022

The Mersey Forest Plan sets out the long term and strategic guide to the work we do and how we work with partners to achieve this.  We are just starting to refresh the Plan for 2025, to make sure that it remains relevant and reflects the changing needs of our communities, the ongoing climate and nature emergencies and new developments taking place in the area.

As we revisit the Plan, we will feed in a range of different experiences and expertise, by listening carefully to what our partners have to say.

We are very grateful to a specialist group of 56 experts, who have kindly offered their time to help and advise us. They work from national to local levels, and their expertise relates to the establishment and management of trees and woodlands, and their many benefits. 

Below are some of the people helping us to shape the plan.

Dr Bianca Ambrose-Oji, Principal Social Scientist, Forest Research.  Bianca researches public and community access to woodlands and greenspace, impacts of outdoor recreation, community engagement in woodland management, and works with land owners to increase tree cover.

Jane Atkinson, ELM Associates, CEnv, MIEEM. Jane has worked as an agri-environment advisor for over 20 years; previously at Cheshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, then as Farm Conservation Advisor at Reaseheath College, before forming Environmental Land Management Associates Ltd in 2019. She specialises in ecological assessments, countryside stewardship schemes, woodland management, and Natural Capital and Welsh Schemes.

Sarah Bird, Director, Wild Rumpus. Wild Rumpus work at the intersection of arts and nature, taking a cross sector approach to encourage people to imagine more sustainable futures.

Dr Colm Bowe, Reader in Engagement for Environment and Sustainability, Liverpool John Moores University. Colm's research focuses on embedding natural capital into policy and decision making. He leads a research group which undertakes natural capital mapping and modelling, and works closely with The Mersey Forest. Colm is seconded as Development Manager at Nature North, a collaboration to drive climate resilience and green growth through nature recovery.

Tom Brannigan, Tree Action Plan Delivery Senior Advisor, Natural England. Cheshire lead for Natural England on woodland creation.

Adam Briggs, Environment Advisor for North West England, National Farmers Union. Adam has held a number of roles for NFU since 2003, looking after livestock, dairy, poultry and horticultural issues in the region. He currently leads on cross sector issues impacting on farmers, including agricultural support, climate change, water and air quality, nature recovery, flooding and drought, and forestry. He updates members on changes in legislation and engages with regional stakeholders. 

Dr Mark Broadmeadow, Head of Climate Change, Forestry Commission. Mark leads the Forestry Commission's work on climate change, both mitigation and adaptation/resilience. He is also the policy lead for woodland creation in the Policy Advice team. He is currently seconded part-time into Defra's forestry policy team, where he is the lead for forestry's contribution to Net Zero and the National Adaptation Programme.

David Brown, Senior Advisor – Flood Risk Management – Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire, Environment Agency. David's background is in geomorphology. He advises on flood risk schemes and interventions, includinmg analysis, appraisal and delivery. He is a local lead on Natural Flood Management for the Environment Agency and has been involved in the delivery of around twenty Natural Flood Management projects in the North West.

Dr Sarah Clement, Associate Professor in Environmental Policy, Australia National University, and Visiting Senior Research Fellow, University of Liverpool. Sarah was the University of Liverpool lead for Urban GreenUP, a Horizon 2020 project. She is an expert in environmental governance, with a particular interest in how governance and policy can be reformed to address environmental change, with respect to biodiversity, climate change, natural hazards, and the use of nature-based solutions.

Steve Connor, Founder and CEO, Creative Concern. Creative Concern is one of the UK's first and leading agencies exclusively dedicated to place, social issues and communications for a sustainable future. Steve works with cities, NGOs and corporations on projects that focus on sustainability strategy and campaigns, city futures, green transport, climate change, place branding and anything to do with trees or bikes.

James Cooper, Landscape Enhancement Senior Advisor, Natural England. James works as part of the Local Landscape Delivery Network in the Cheshire-to-Lancashire area. He has almost 20 years experience in private consultancy, working as a Landscape Manager at various levels and on a wide range of project types, including open space, habitat enhancement, wildlife recovery, landscape scale assessment, and evidence analysis.

Melissa Crellin, Strategy and Public Affairs Director, Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership. Melissa has expertise in regional economic development. She was the lead for Cheshire and Warrington Economic Plan, Net Zero Policy and Projects, Sustainable and Inclusive Growth Commission, and Cheshire and Warrington's Natural Capital Audit and Investment Plan.

Andy Darron, Executive Director, Groundwork Cheshire, Lancashire and Merseyside. Andy leads the work of the Groundwork Trust, a charity that mobilises practical community action on poverty and the environment across the North West. He is especially interested in the relationship between our environment and its effect on our sense of place, levels of civic pride, and the re-emergence of thriving local communities.

Ben Deed, Local Environmental Records Centre Officer, Merseyside BioBank. Ben runs Merseyside BioBank, the local biodiversity data hub for North Merseyside, which is part of the National Biodiversity Network and of the Environmental Advisory Service to the Liverpool City Region planning authorities. Its focus is the generation and collection of species and habitat data, to inform planning, decision taking and conservation, through a network of volunteers and organisations.

Sarah Dewar, Social Value and Engagement Manager, NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group. Sarah has previously worked closely with The Mersey Forest on developing and delivering health aspects of Liverpool's Green Infrastructure Strategy.

Helen Eaton, Assistant Principal Liverpool and Partnership, Myerscough College. Helen's expertise will help develop the life-long learning, training, skills, and jobs aspects of The Mersey Forest Plan.

Tom Ferguson, Retired town planner. Tom spent most of his career with St Helens Council, responsible for forward planning. Much of his experience was in environmental regeneration and included helping to establish and then liaise with The Mersey Forest. After retiring from the Council, he worked part-time for The Mersey Forest, exploring its links with the statutory planning process. He is a keen naturalist, involved in the recording and interpretation of sites within the Forest area.

Katie Finkill-Coombs, Senior Advisor – Local Nature Recovery Strategies, Natural England. Katie's work on Local Nature Recovery Strategies covers Liverpool City Region and Lancashire. She started with Natural England in 2009 and has experience in working and designating protected sites, site monitoring, partnership engagement and sustainable development.

Peter Gateley, Retired ecologist. Peter trained in landscape architecture and worked as a landscape designer until 1979. He was then the first chief ranger for Sankey Valley Park, followed by Senior Countryside Officer, for St Helens. He then was a botanical field surveyor, for the Groundwork Trust and freelance, as well as senior botanist for the TEP consultancy. He was President of the Liverpool Botanical Society for two terms and the BSBI plant recorder for vice county 59 (South Lancashire).

Dr Nicola Hall, ELM Associates. Nicky is an environment advisor and project manager with a research background, specialising in soil, water and nutrient management. She previously worked at Cheshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, then as Farm Conservation Advisor at Reaseheath College, before forming Environmental Land Management Associates Ltd in 2019. Nicky is the lead advisor for Environmental Permitting, Infrastructure Capital Projects and Ammonia Emissions Plans.

Professor Emeritus John Handley OBE. John started as a restoration ecologist. He was a senior planner, founding director of The Groundwork Trust, and helped to establish The Mersey Forest. At the University of Manchester he founded the Centre for Urban and Regional Ecology. He explored the role of green infrastructure in moderating urban climate change impacts. He is actively engaged in neighbourhood planning. He is a member of UNEP Global 500 for services to the environment.

Dr Gabriel Hemery CEnv FICFor, Chief Executive, Sylva Foundation. Chair, Forestry and Climate Change Partnership. Gabriel leads Sylva Foundation, a national environmental and forestry charity. His expertise relates to planting, design and management of trees and woodlands. He has a personal interest in the affinity between trees and people.

Stephen Hogarth, Lead teacher: Careers Education, Information, Advice and Guidance, Wargrave House School and College. Wargrave House is an autism and co-existing diagnosis learning environment in Merseyside for ages 5-25.

Sue James, AA Dipl RIBA FICFor (Hon). Chartered Architect. Member of The Edge, a multi-disciplinary, campaigning built environment think tank. Convenor, Trees and Design Action Group. Member of the Teach the Future Adult Advisory Board. Knowledge programme curator, Futurebuild. Senior Associate, Lucy Cavendish College, University of Cambridge. Sue has an interest in all aspects of urban trees and getting research into practice.

Catrin Jenkins, Historic Environment advisor for the North West and West Midlands, Forestry Commission. Catrin has a field archaeology background and over 20 years of experience in the historic environment sector. She currently advises on woodland planting schemes and regulations.

Keith Jones, North West and West Midlands Area Director, Forest Services arm of the Forestry Commission. Keith has been in forestry since 1975 and has worked extensively across the Mersey Belt since 1995.

Mark Joslyn, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Mark has managed and delivered a wide range of grant programmes, across low carbon, biodiversity and flooding.

Angie Jukes, Senior Advisor – Local Nature Recovery Strategies, Natural England. Angie is a sustainability professional with more than 20 years experience in the public sector. She has a long history of working with planning professionals and other stakeholders on achieving sustainable development, improved green infrastructure, and nature recovery, alongside addressing the climate crisis.

Jon Kedwards, Engagement and Impact Officer, Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission. Communications Consultant. Jon has decades of experience working to promote the linkages between green infrastructure, wellbeing and adapting to / mitigating against climate change.

Professor Zoe Knowles, Liverpool John Moores University. Zoe is a Health and Care Professions Council Registered Psychologist in the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences. She is keen to explore how being physically active in green spaces can help to treat mild to moderate mental health conditions and improve health outcomes generally. She loves working with Mersey Forest.

Professor Anna Lawrence, Human Dimensions of Forestry, University of the Highlands and Islands. Anna is a specialist in Community Forestry; the relationships between research, practice and policy; social enterprise; community involvement in rewilding. She was head of social research at Forest Research, establishing their community forestry research programme. She is involved in community, social and urban forestry in Scotland, and is keen on sharing ideas between UK nations. 

Dr James Levine, Senior Research Fellow, University of Birmingham. James' research focuses on air quality. He was Programme Lead for 'Green Infrastructure for Roadside Air Quality' (GI4RAQ). Freely available resources include: GI4RAQ Platform software to estimate site-dependent impacts of roadside vegetation barriers via changes in pollution dispersion; GI4RAQ Guidance and Decision Tree developed with Transport for London; and early guidance written with Greater London Authority.

Simon Mageean, Programme Director: Northern Forest Treescape, Woodland Trust. Simon's work in the Northern Forest partnership includes directing woodland creation planning and delivery (via Grow Back Greener, the Nature for Climate funded delivery programme), woodland management (in particularly PAWS restoration), community engagement. He is involved in policy development and advocacy. He previously worked creating and managing woodlands in The Mersey Forest.

Chris Matthews, Head of Public and Community, United Utilities. Chris develops links with the North Wests MPs and stakeholders. He helps the water company deliver its objectives sustainably, through the development and implementation of environmental and social strategies, and reporting on responsible business commitments. He works with groups, such as Greater Manchester's Natural Capital Group and Business in the Community, to encourage responsible business behaviour. 

Annie Merry, Director, Faiths4Change.  Faiths4Change is an environmental charity, working with faith and place-based communities across the Liverpool City Region and beyond. It co-creates land, faith, climate, and resource reuse projects as platforms to learn and share knowledge, develop skills and grow deeply sustainable relationships. It has been working with and enjoyed the support of The Mersey Forest for more than ten years. 

Sue Morgan, Chief Executive, Landscape Institute. Sue is a landscape architect with a 25-year-plus career in built environment, urban renewal and placemaking. She was Director and Interim CEO at Design Council, CEO of Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust, founder of placemaking consultancy Around the Block, founder of Bankside Open Spaces Trust, and held senior positions with London local authorities, Groundwork London, and Building Services Research Information Association. 

Ellie Morris, Nature Recovery Programme Manager, Cheshire Wildlife Trust. Ellie is the woodland creation lead for Cheshire Wildlife Trust. She works with partners and third party landowners to create new woodland across Cheshire.

Dr Caitlin Nunn, Research Fellow in Manchester Centre for Youth Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University. Caitlin's research uses participatory and creative approaches to explore the lived experiences of migrant-background young people, including in relation to the natural environment. She is a Co-Investigator on the NERC funded 'Voices of the Future' UK Treescapes project.

Professor Kate Pahl, Arts and Literacy, Manchester Metropolitan University. Kate works with children and young people in home and community settings to explore their meanings and knowledge. She has conducted collaborative ethnographic work with a focus on place and literacy practices. She is currently the Principal Investigator of the NERC funded 'Voices of the Future' UK Treescapes project.

Roger Pearson, Managing Director, Fleetsolve. Roger has bioenergy expertise, specifically in relation to renewable fuels for power generation and wood fuels for the heating sector. He is a Trustee of Community Forest Land Trust and Mersey Forest Foundation.

Jasmeet Phagoora, Senior Research Officer – Natural Environment, Trees and Landscapes, Defra. Jasmeet works in monitoring and evaluating England's Tree Planting Programme. She previously worked at the New Economics Foundation on health and wellbeing, and nature connectedness.

Rachel Price, ELM Associates. Rachel is an experienced Farm Advisor specialising in the environment and resource protection. She previously worked at Cheshire Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, then as Farm Conservation Advisor at Reaseheath College, before forming Environmental Land Management Associates Ltd in 2019. Rachel specialises in Countryside Stewardship, Soil and Water Management, Carbon and Energy Audits, Habitat and Protected Species Surveys. 

Alan Redley, Chair of Trustees, Friends of Anderton and Marbury. Friends of Anderton and Marbury is an active group which organises walks, talks and events throughout the year and develops projects for conservation, improving biodiversity and improving amenities in the Northwich Woodlands. The group works closely with Cheshire West and Chester's Ranger Service and The Mersey Forest.

Professor Sarah Rodgers, University of Liverpool. Sarah is a health data scientist with expertise in evaluating complex public health interventions and policy changes using large routinely collected administrative datasets. Her research uses data to explore the impact of exposures, including natural outdoor spaces, on health and wellbeing. She leads the Care and Health Informatics theme of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration for the Northwest Coast.

Nick Rowles, Trees Outside Woodlands Project Officer, Shropshire Council. Nick works with landowners in Shropshire to increase the uptake of agroforestry and orchards on farmland. He is keen to 'think outside the woods' and get more trees in the countryside.

Dr Avril Rowley, Senior Lecturer, Liverpool John Moores University. Avril is a senior lecturer in Primary Initial Teacher Education (ITE), with a focus on embedding outdoor learning into the delivery of all curriculum subjects through a 'Natural Curriculum' approach. She has developed a framework of CPD with The Mersey Forest for in-service teachers to develop confidence in teaching everyday lessons outdoors. She embeds outdoor learning into LJMU's Primary ITE programmes.

Professor Dave Shaw, Geography and Planning, University of Liverpool. Dave has a long-established interest in rural planning and environmental management. He has been involved with community forestry; initially through work underpinning the first Forest of Mercia Plan, and more recently as a Trustee of the Community Forest Trust, Community Forest Land Trust, and Mersey Forest Foundation. He has worked on planning reform in the UK, Europe, Middle East and China.

Louise Simpson, Executive Director, Institute of Chartered Foresters. Louise is responsible for promoting the professional status of Chartered Foresters and Arboriculturists among employers, decision-makers, the public and individual professionals. She provides advice to key decision-makers and influencers. She has 20 years experience in evidence gathering, policy development, strategy, campaigning, stakeholder engagement, fundraising, and people management.

Gill Smith MRTPI, Planning Policy Manager, Cheshire West and Chester Council. Gill is responsible for the Cheshire West and Chester Council's Local Plan, support for Neighbourhood Planning, and the Community Infrastructure Levy / Section 106 team.

Joshua Styles MSc AMRSB MCIEEM FISC 6, Principal Ecologist and Botanical Specialist, Project Coordinator, North West Rare Plant Initiative. Josh started the North West Rare Plant Initiative in 2017. He is an ecologist with a background in botany and conservation.

Dave Sweeney, Executive Director of Partnerships, Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership. Dave has about 25 years experience in Health and Social care, commissioning, transformation and change management. He leads on social prescribing, zero carbon and sustainability, and social value. He is the Senior Responsible Officer for personalised care and has been the Executive link to health inequalities.

Julia Thrift, Director of Healthier Place-Making, Town and Country Planning Association. Julia runs the national Green Infrastructure Partnership. She is a trustee at Trees for Cities, a charity that works with communities to improve lives by planting trees. Earlier in her career she was a Director at the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

Jessica Turner, Historic Environment Advisor in north of England, Forestry Commission. Jessica's expertise will help develop the culture, heritage and landscape aspects of The Mersey Forest Plan.

Greg Vickers, Head of Forestry, Grosvenor Estate. Greg is a professional forester who manages forestry assets across Great Britain, including in The Mersey Forest. He also manages Grosvenor Timberworks, a modern sawmill and timber processing site near Chester which produces structural grade and bespoke timber.

Rachel Waggett, Principal Environment Officer, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. Rachel leads on net zero, natural environment and the emerging Local Nature Recovery Strategy for the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. She works on Natural Environment Investment and has experience of managing and implementing Local Authority green space/municipal park development projects.

Professor Piran White, Environment and Geography, University of York. Piran is an ecologist. His research focuses on the interface between ecosystems and human and animal health and wellbeing, and is often interdisciplinary across natural and social sciences, arts and humanities. He is a lead for Environment and Health within the York Environmental Sustainability Institute and co-leads the 'Connected Treescapes' UKRI Treescapes project, which includes The Mersey Forest as a case study.

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