THE UK Government will struggle to hit its tree planting targets and must do more to double the amount of homegrown timber, a new report has found.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee report accuses ministers of a “lack of focus” - and said they need “a comprehensive plan to support greater planting”. 

Produced by a cross-party group of MPs, it calls on officials to consider more carefully where trees are planted - "the right tree in the right place" - while demanding enough funds are allocated to meet the goals. 

READ MORE: NAO says DEFRA 'did not do enough' to ensure 7,500 ha tree planting target was realistic

Coming shortly after a spending watchdog found DEFRA officials had failed to "to ensure tree planting targets of 7,500 hectares per year were achievable", the EFRA report did, however, praise the government for its "ambition" on woodland creation. 

Confor's chief executive, Stuart Goodall, warned ministers were failing to grasp the opportunity on tree planting and called for an England-specific goal to be created. 

He said: “This report says the UK Government must ‘get its act together’ on tree planting - and the industry agrees.

"Forestry and wood processing employs well over 50,000 people and delivers economic benefits of £2 billion each year to the UK - but it needs confidence in the UK Government to grow further.

Forestry Journal: Stuart Goodall was scathing of the findings Stuart Goodall was scathing of the findings

“That confidence starts with the target - 30,000 hectares of new woodland in the UK by 2024. At the moment, we are not even planting half of that - and 80 per cent is in Scotland.

“The Westminster Government must set a specific target for England, not hide behind a UK target that shares responsibility with the devolved administrations, which were not consulted on the UK target in the first place.”

In a response to this month's National Audit Office (NAO) report, Stuart had called on ministers to do more to make it easier to secure planning permission for large-scale planting projects.

Last week, DEFRA published a green paper in a bid to allay those fears, which, among other suggestions, put forward "new statutory duties and powers for the Forestry Commission, reflecting the social and environmental importance of its woodlands as well as their timber value".

Forestry Journal: Neil Parish chairs the EFRA committee Neil Parish chairs the EFRA committee

READ MORE: Confor calls for urgent action to tackle UK tree-planting failure

But today Stuart added: “It is extremely difficult to secure permission to plant large wood-producing forests that are so desperately needed. For too long, the important economic reasons to plant trees and manage woodland - and sustaining those benefits with income from sales of wood - has been ignored in the delivery of public policy in England.

"Supplies of timber are under fierce pressure as global demand rises rapidly and the UK needs to take more responsibility for producing its own - to support rural businesses and deliver on its climate change ambitions.

“The Climate Change Committee clearly identified that greater tree planting and wood use is vital to the UK meeting net-zero, but the UK Government is failing to grasp the opportunity."

Environment Secretary, George Eustice, said: “We have stretching and ambitious targets when it comes to tree planting, and just last year we launched the England Trees Action Plan.

"We are committed to planting 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year in the UK by the end of this Parliament, backed up by over £500m of funding.

"Last week, I announced that we will be consulting on a target to increase woodland cover and tree canopy cover outside woodlands from 14.5 per cent to 17.5 per cent of total land area in England by 2050.”