A SCATHING report that accused ministers of 'lacking focus' on the UK's tree planting targets has been welcomed by the Royal Forestry Society (RFS). 

Members of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee said officials will struggle to hit ambitious goals of 7,500 new hectares each year and must do more to double the amount of homegrown timber used in the country. 

Published by a cross-party group of MPs on Monday, the report also called on DEFRA to fill 300 woodland creation roles by 2025 and for better mapping to be used as part of tree planting planning. 

While ministers have defended their targets, they have been criticised by some within the industry, including Confor's chief executive Stuart Goodall, who said the government had to "learn from the lessons of the past".

RFS chief executive Christopher Williams said: “We are delighted the committee has addressed many of the concerns expressed by the RFS and other organisations.

"Tree planting has been woefully low for many years. Without a clearer focus from the Government the step up to planting 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year in the UK by 2025 will be missed.”

Other findings contained in EFRA's report included:  

  • That it was unclear if enough funding had been allocated to hit tree planting targets 
  • More work must be done with the UK's nurseries to increase production 
  • A bigger push is needed to reduce the country's reliance on imported timber 
  • The principle of 'the right tree in the right place' should be at the heart of all woodland creation plans 

Christopher added: “An estimated 40 per cent of our woods remain unmanaged or under-managed. That means they are not producing good timber, spaces for wildlife and people to enjoy or other public benefits.

“One of the recommendations in the report asks Defra to review the length of maintenance payments to support more woods into management. 

Forestry Journal: Christopher Williams called for action Christopher Williams called for action

"The RFS is calling on Defra and the Forestry Commission to work with the forestry sector. We want them to go further, for example by ensuring the new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is open to all woodland owners and managers.”

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

READ MORE: EFRA tree planting report 2022: UK Government criticised for 'lack of focus' and push for homegrown timber

"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.”