National Forest Company plans to become a charity within 10 years

The non-departmental public body, which manages forest in Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire, wants to diversify its income streams, according to its new 10-year strategy

Battlestead Hill, Staffordshire – part of the National Forest (picture by Diana Jarvis)
Battlestead Hill, Staffordshire – part of the National Forest (picture by Diana Jarvis)

The non-departmental public body responsible for managing 200 square miles of forest in central England is exploring the possibility of becoming a charity.

The National Forest Company was set up by the government in 1995 and manages an area of forest that stretches across Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

In the year to March 2014, it received almost £2.9m from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and an income of £400,000 from other sources.

Of the smaller sum, about half came from corporate sponsorship and from individuals paying to plant more trees in the forest.

The remainder was derived from small grants, the largest of which was £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

However, the Defra grant is gradually reducing year-on-year and the company expects it to be about 10 per cent less by the end of the current financial year.

The NFC announced in its 10-year strategy, published earlier this week, that it plans to explore the possibility of becoming a charity by 2024 in order to diversify its income streams.

NFC said in the document: "The primary objective of the coming year is to set the course of the decade to come. This includes beginning the progression towards independence from government by 2024, which in turn requires achieving charitable status for fundraising purposes, alongside maintaining NDPB status in the interim, in agreement with the Charity Commission."

Sophie Churchill, chief executive of the NFC, said in a statement: "This year we are testing new ways to generate income for the forest, doing even more in managing the woodlands and evolving how we are organised for the future."

If successful, the NFC could follow other non-governmental department bodies that have become charities. British Waterways changed into the charity the Canal & River Trust in July 2012, and the government began consultations earlier this year to create a charity out of part of English Heritage by April 2015.

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