Development pressures will continue to cause controversy and impact upon communities within the Vale.  An aim of the Forest Team will be to encourage landowners, developers and planning authorities to deliver Community Forest objectives and incorporate the principles of sustainability when considering further development.

- The Forest Plan, 2000

Our position on development

We are here to create the Forest of Marston Vale – this essentially means planting trees and creating woodlands. When big changes are planned in the area, people sometimes think that we can stop them from happening, hopefully this blog post will explain why that isn’t the case.

We work in an area where significant development has already taken place and more is anticipated; some is planned locally and some nationally but either way change is inevitable. We aren’t the planning authority, we can’t put our foot down and stop something happening. That doesn’t mean we just “sit back and watch it happen” and as it says in the Forest Plan (view it here) one of our aims is to ‘seek to gain meaningful benefits for the Forest through the planning system’.

We have a vision for the Forest which is shared by the two local authorities within the Forest footprint (Central Bedfordshire Council and Bedford Borough Council) and both have policies that require developers to demonstrate how they will deliver 30% tree cover and contribute to the environmentally led regeneration of the Forest of Marston Vale. You might think that as a charity, money would be the first thing on our list when we talk to developers but actually our ideal outcome would be for the developer to agree to include tree planting as part of their overall plan and so deliver 30% tree cover within each new development. Where this isn’t possible, we ask the developer to plant on another site or provide land for planting, and only when none of these options are viable do we negotiate a financial contribution to tree planting. Any money we receive this way is “restricted” and can only be used for forest creation.

Benefiting from change doesn’t make us pro-development and we remain neutral on developments which don’t conflict with the Forest Plan. Planning decisions are made by others but when change does happen we’ll do our best to make sure it supports our vision of 30% tree cover and all the benefits the Forest brings to the people of the Marston Vale.

So far, we’ve secured over £4m in net environmental gains from developers towards the creation of the Forest – if you’d like to know more about what we’ve achieved so far, click here. We’ve planted over 2 million trees and simply couldn’t have got this far without working with others. Securing this level of investment in the local environment from development wouldn’t have been possible without the work of the Forest Team – the development would have happened anyway; the environmental gains happened because of us.

Development isn’t going to go away and neither is our passion to deliver our vision for the Forest of Marston Vale as a place defined by trees and woodlands where communities, businesses and the environment can thrive alongside each other in a sustainable balanced way.


Covanta is an ‘energy from waste’ plant that is being built in Rookery Pit (next to the Millennium Country Park).

Could you have stopped Covanta?

No. The decision giving it the go ahead was made by the Joint Committee of the Houses of Parliament in 2012.

Are you for or against Covanta?

We’ve treated Covanta like any other development that doesn’t go against the Forest Plan, so we are neutral. Being neutral doesn’t mean doing nothing, we worked to promote environmental considerations and ensure that if the project went ahead it would bring meaningful benefits to the area – whether it’s planting more trees or a fund being setup to benefit local community groups.

Are you receiving money from Covanta?

The Forest will benefit from £250k in year one, and £50k annually after that - this is purely for planting trees. The money will go into our restricted funds and literally can’t be spent on anything except woodland creation.

As part of what they do as an energy provider, Covanta offer to pay something towards the energy bills of people in the area – both for local businesses and people’s homes. As you probably know we already have a wind turbine and photovoltaic panels on the roof of the Forest Centre generating our electricity, so the £10k contribution will go towards other energy costs of the building instead.

Did the money you’ll receive affect your attitude to Covanta?

No. There was no ‘pay out’ to keep quiet, or stay neutral. We are neutral on any development which doesn’t conflict with the Forest Plan.

We understand that there will always be people who are really against certain developments, and we know that some people aren’t happy with our neutral stance but hopefully, this has cleared up some common misconceptions about our involvement – we haven’t ‘sold our soul’ to a big corporation; our Trustees haven’t been ‘bought off’ with millions of pounds. If you have any more questions, or don’t think we’ve explained something, please email us – we’d be happy to talk to you about it.

More Info

Covanta’s website

The Marston Moretaine Action Group (a group of individuals who are concerned about developments in the Marston Vale)