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How well does the Forestry Commission address the needs of disabled and ethnic minority users?


At the time of this project there was limited research on accessibility and equality in the forestry sector. Studies did not account for different types of woodland or between specific ethnic groups, for example. Forest Research provided data and analysis on the monitoring of ethnic minority access to Forest Commission services with insights on attitudes and perceptions among specific ethnic minority groups. The team also documented best practices in promoting race equality by countryside service providers.

Key findings and recommendations:

  • Repositioning – the Forestry Commission needs to rethink its policies in light of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
  • Active race equality – a passive “countryside for all” approach is no longer sufficient to meet the requirements of the Act
  • Equality Scheme – the responsibility to implement an equality scheme (which should cover race, disability and gender) goes beyond the scope of Human Resources and should be tackled strategically at all levels
  • Impact assessment – all general Forestry Commission activities should be assessed for their race equality impact
  • Ethnic monitoring – ethnic categories should be incorporated into site visitor and staff monitoring systems
  • Publications and access to information – translations of leaflets, documents and signs should be proportionate to local needs and planned through local consultation with black and ethnic minority community leaders
  • Training – all staff should be given basic diversity training, with additional input for local staff working with black and minority ethnic partners
  • Engagement – outreach and local partnerships with communities are probably the most important way in which the Forestry Commission meets its duties under the Act
  • Recruitment – positive action is required to recruit more black, Asian and ethic minority staff and volunteers


Funders and partners


Commissioned and funded by the Forestry Commission.


The research was completed in 2009.


Bianca Ambrose-Oji

Accessibility and racial equality research methodology

Case study

A case study will be conducted in Northants Forest District (and East Midlands Conservancy). This district was chosen because it has a range of sizeable ethnic minority groups and a range of woodland types located both on the urban fringe and in isolated rural areas. The District Forest Manager has identified a need for the research and agreed to support it.

The case study will employ qualitative and quantitative methods.

Depending on the outcomes of this pilot study, a second case study may be conducted in a forest district in Scotland and/or Wales to represent isolated districts with small ethnic minority populations.

Sampling of woodlands, ethnic groups, communities and individuals

As with the selection of Northants Forest District, sampling of woodlands, ethnic groups, communities and individuals for study within the district will be purposeful rather than representative, and aim to provide exemplars that reveal the most important relationships between:

  • Ethnicity
  • Woodlands
  • Forestry Commission staff
  • Forestry Commission functions and services.

Woodland sites are likely to be selected according to the distance from urban centres, and physical attributes such as degree of ‘naturalness’ and history of management.

Specific Forestry Commission functions will be selected according to the principle of proportionality (i.e. those that appear to have the greatest impact on ethnic minority groups) and will become the focus of applied research to develop methods for ethnic monitoring. Priority functions are likely to be those relating to recreation and access, and working with communities.

Qualitative research

Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with relevant Forestry Commission staff (in particular those engaged with management, planning, consultation, education, and recreation), local government, NGO, and community representatives, and members of ethnic minority groups including users and non-users of Forestry Commission services. A small number of focus groups with members of ethnic minority groups will supplement interview data. External contractors may be used to conduct some of the qualitative research.

Quantitive research

Quantitative research will include compilation of existing statistics on the ethnic composition of the district, and the catchment areas of selected sites, which may be overlaid with existing GIS-based data drawn from the National Inventory of Woods and Trees, and The Woodland Trust Space For People Project. This may inform the selection of research subjects and locations, and may help to determine the degree of representation of ethnic minority groups.

Existing visitor survey data for the district, and comparable districts, will be used where available, possibly supplemented by a limited amount of new survey research at selected woodland sites.

Questionnaires may be used to gain further information from Forestry Commission staff, and targeted ethnic minority groups.


Transcribed interview and focus group texts will be analysed using QSR Nvivo software. Forestry Commission statisticians will assist with the collation and analysis of data on ethnic composition and visitor surveys. Research informants will be invited to participate in the analysis of data and production of research findings.


It is acknowledged that race equality can be a sensitive issue for any public authority, including Forestry Commission. The researchers’ ethical responsibilities towards research participants, professional colleagues, sponsors, and the wider public are being considered carefully in accordance with the Social and Economic Research Group Ethical Statement, which in turn is based upon the ethical guidelines of the Social Research Association and British Sociological Association.

Useful sites

Accessibility and racial equality research bibliography

Agyeman, J. and Spooner, R. (1997). Ethnicity and the Rural Environment. pp 197-217 in: Cloke, P. and Little, J. (eds). Contested Countryside Cultures: Otherness, Marginalisation and Rurality. Routledge, London.

Askins, K. (2003). Ethnic Minorities Usage of National Parks in England. First Year Doctoral Report. Department of Geography, University of Durham.

BEN/CA (2003). Capturing Richness: Countryside Visits by Black and Ethnic Minority Communities. Black Environment Network and Countryside Agency, Cheltenham.

Burgess, J. (1995). Growing in Confidence: Understanding People’s Perceptions of Urban Fringe Woodlands. Countryside Commission.

CRE (2002). Statutory Code of Practice on the Duty to Promote Race Equality. Commission for Racial Equality. 76pp.

CRE (2002). The Duty to Promote Race Equality: A Guide for Public Authorities. Commission for Racial Equality. 74pp.

CRE (2002). Ethnic Monitoring: A Guide for Public Authorities. Commission for Racial Equality. 92 pp.

Forestry Commission (2003). The Forestry Commission’s Race Equality Scheme (RES). Staff Notice 27. Prepared November 2003. 16pp.

Gervais, M-C., McLean, C. and Rehman, H. (2004). Research into the Need for Access to the Outdoors and Countryside amongst People from Black and Minority Ethnic Communities, Young People and People with Disabilities. A Literature Review. Ethnos Research and Consultancy, London. 20pp.

Henderson, P. and Kaur, R. (eds). (1999). Rural Racism in the UK: Examples of Community-Based Responses. Community Development Foundation, London.

Lee, T.R. (2001). Perceptions, Attitudes and Preferences in Forests and Woodlands. Technical Paper 18. Forestry Commission. 166pp.

Morris, N. (2003). Black and Minority Ethnic Groups and Public Open Space. Literature Review. OPENspace, Edinburgh. 38pp.

OPENspace (2003). Diversity Review: Options for Implementation. Final Report. OPENspace, Edinburgh. 83pp.
Rishbeth, C. (2001). Ethnic Minority Groups and the Design of Public Open Space: An Inclusive Landscape? Landscape Research, 26(4): 351-366

Tolia-Kelly, D.P. (2004). Landscape, Race and Memory: Biographical Mapping of the Routes of British Asian Landscape Values. Landscape Research, 29(3): 277-292.

Walker, M. (2000). A White and (Un)pleasant Land: Minority Ethnic Experiences of the English Countryside. Unpublished M.Phil Thesis.

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