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Woodland Opportunity Mapping

Sussex Nature Partnership, Woodland Trust and South Downs National Park Authority have collaborated to produce a Woodland Opportunity Map for Sussex and the areas of the South Downs National Park in Hampshire.

This is a GIS based tool to help farmers, landowners and managers with initial guidance on identifying sites suitable for woodland creation in Sussex and South Downs National Park.

It uses a methodology applied in other sensitive landscapes, such as Nidderdale AONB and Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Key Documents

If you require these documents in an accessible format, please email info@southdowns.gov.uk 


  • What is a Woodland Opportunity Map?

    A Woodland Opportunity Map is a tool that can be used to indicate where woodland creation may be most suitable.

    For the purpose of this tool, woodland creation includes native woodland planting and/or natural colonisation.

  • Who is it for?

    This tool is intended to help farmers, landowners and managers assess whether sites may have potential for woodland creation – and to provide an indication of the level of sensitivity these sites may have depending on environmental information that can be mapped and included in the tool.

  • What does it do?

    This tool brings together national spatial environmental data for Sussex and the South Downs National Park and uses these to indicate where woodland creation may be appropriate or not.

    It does this by ‘weighting’ data either positively or negatively depending on whether it suggests whether woodland creation would be beneficial or not.

    A combined layer then brings the positive and negative weightings together to provide a final score which is used to indicate suitability for woodland creation.

    Several categories of suitability are provided to reflect the range of scores (where a high positive score indicates greater suitability – but a low positive total score indicates greater sensitivity and thus lower suitability for woodland creation.

  • Does it exclude areas from consideration?

    The tool does exclude areas from consideration – either because they are not suitable for woodland creation at scale (e.g. urban areas) or as a means of protecting other habitats or cultural assets from woodland creation (such as other priority habitat types, scheduled ancient monuments, local geological sites and so on).

    Other sensitive areas, where care must be taken when considering woodland creation – such as within designated natural sites such as Local Wildlife Sites – are not excluded but are given negative weightings to reflect their sensitivity.

  • What other limitations does it have?

    There are many factors that need to be taken into considerations when making land-use decisions, many of which cannot be mapped. This tool has some notable excisions which will need  to be investigated through additional desk-based and site survey. These include landscape character or the presence of individual archaeological sites.

    Therefore, this map provides only a simple first and high level assessment of suitability for woodland creation. It is not definitive and must always be followed up by gathering further information about the proposed site and its setting, and through site survey and assessment. The requirements of the Forestry Commission for all new woodland creation projects must still be met.

    The High Weald AONB has been shaded deliberately on this map to indicate the specific sensitivity of this area to woodland creation. projects.  This medieval landscape has a distinctive and complex landscape character which was not possible to represent in the tool. For example, it has valuable low input grassland and rare wildflower grasslands some of which are unmapped.  If considering woodland creation in this area, initial guidance should be sought from the High Weald AONB Partnership (see below).

  • Is this a final map?

    This map is not a final map. It is a first iteration and will undergo a six month period of ‘ground truthing’ to identify any problems or inaccuracies it may have in relation to suitability of sites for woodland creation (Sept 2022 – Feb 2023).

    Within this period, if you note any issues with the map – please do let us know on info@southdowns.gov.uk

  • Who can I contact if I’m interested in developing a woodland creation project on my land?

    If you would like more information on whether a site is suitable for woodland creation or need guidance on how to bring forward a woodland creation projects, a range of organisations can be contacted for advice: