Confor has delivered a five-point forestry action plan to create rural jobs, tackle climate change, build new homes and protect wildlife in its manifesto for the UK Government election.
The document – called ‘Planting the Future’ – calls on the new government to:
- Plant more trees: At least 5000 hectares of annual planting is needed in England, when barely 500 hectares has been achieved in each of the last two years. At least half of new planting must be productive species.
- Take the Forestry Commission back to its roots: The Forestry Commission should be given full responsibility for planting targets, as well as woodland creation applications and funding.
- Appoint a minister to stand up for forestry: We need a minister with forestry in their title, to press the importance of a £2 billion sector in the industrial strategy and after Brexit, and to champion home-grown timber.
- Cut red tape: England should follow Scotland’s example and appoint a planning expert to identify the bureaucratic barriers to new woodland creation.
- Ensure fair treatment for forestry: Government agencies and politicians must give equal treatment to a £2 billion sector employing 80,000 people, which offers multiple social and environmental benefits.
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: “We have outlined a positive, straightforward and achievable vision for the next parliament.
“We have highlighted planting more trees as our top priority as it underpins everything else. The record of planting in England in the last two years has been very disappointing, but the new government starts with a clean slate.”
Mr Goodall said the fifth point in the manifesto, fair treatment for forestry, was crucial.
He said: “Explaining the true story of modern forestry remains a high priority for Confor. Mixed, modern forestry can provide rural jobs and a timber supply to underpin a £2 billion industry supporting 80,000 jobs – but it can also deliver a range of environmental and social benefits.
“There is a low level of understanding in government and its agencies about what modern forestry looks like. If the new government delivers on our five-point plan, it will create rural jobs, tackle climate change, provide the timber supply to build new homes, protect places for wildlife and reduce the risks of flooding.
“These are not either/or options – an increase in new planting, with at least half of it productive species to create the wooden products we all use in our daily lives, can deliver all these benefits simultaneously. That’s why our document is sub-titled How trees can deliver for our economy, environment and society.”
The manifesto, which has been shared with all political parties, quotes extensively from the report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee, published in March. It said: “Forests and woodlands provide multiple environmental, social and economic benefits” but also notes: “England has one of the lowest levels if woodland cover [in Europe.”
Woodland cover in England is currently 10 per cent, against a UK-wide average of 13 per cent and an EU average of around 37 per cent. The UK is the third largest net importer of timber in the world, after China and Japan.
Stuart Goodall concluded: “Forestry has had a higher profile in recent years, but we must translate this into action. Brexit offers opportunities to plant more trees in the right places and if we can take a number of straightforward actions, our economy, our environment and our communities will benefit.”
Read the manifesto here