A NORTH Yorkshire nursery will not reopen despite pleas to reconsider the decision amid the country's tree planting struggles. 

Defra officials have confirmed Forestry England's Wykeham nursery is now out for lease after production halted earlier this year.

The decision to close the nursery came as a result of reduced demand for plants, officials said in 2021, with seed production moved to FE's Delamere facilities in Cheshire.

READ MORE: Forestry England announces closure of Wykeham nursery in North Yorkshire

In March, a crossparty group of MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee had called on government ministers to reevaluate the move with the UK set to miss its tree planting goals again. It since has. 

But today, in response to the EFRA findings, Defra chiefs have refused to back down over Wykeham, insisting Delamere "will provide excellent quality trees". 

A Defra response read: "The decision to close Wykeham followed a detailed review of Forestry England’s operations, which led to concentrating tree seedling production at Delamere in Cheshire.

"This decision has been carefully considered by the Forestry England Board and will not have an impact on current or future tree planting ambitions nationally or by Forestry England.

"Forestry England’s two nurseries exist primarily to supply trees for Forestry England.

"The nurseries also supply trees to the legacy organisations in Wales and Scotland which have been created in response to the devolution of state forest management in those countries.

"These sales are declining as Natural Resources Wales and Forestry and Land Scotland move to procuring trees through public tender.

"The future supply from Delamere will provide excellent quality trees suitable for planting by Forestry England throughout England." 

As we told earlier, FE officials said that although demand for trees was generally increasing across the UK forestry sector, the demand for trees from its nurseries was set to reduce by more than 5 million plants. 

Defra's response added: "Delamere Nursery is home to the most advanced production systems in the UK Forest Nursery sector. Past investment in its glasshouse facility has allowed Forestry England to move toward a sustainable method of tree production, reducing inputs of water and pesticides while increasing efficiency of seed use.

"Further planned investment will increase outputs from the existing site and will further reduce reliance on labour. 

READ MORE: UK tree planting: George Eustice and Mairi McAllan respond to Forest Research report

"The Wykeham site has been made available to lease by competitive tender. Bids will be evaluated, with those that indicate intention to grow trees being prioritised."

Confirmation comes amid Defra's full response to the EFRA report; one of several this year to criticise the government over its failure to hit its own tree planting targets.

MPs accused ministers of a “lack of focus” - and said they needed “a comprehensive plan to support greater planting”.  

The EFRA report also found: 

Since it was published, Forest Research's own findings have found just 13,840 hectares were planted in the 12 months prior to March 2022, around a third of the government's goal of 30,000 ha each year by 2025. The figure is only slightly higher than 2021's total of 13,410 ha. 

Scotland came out on top of the country's four nations, creating 10,480 ha of new woodlands - about 80 per cent of its own annual target. According to Forest Research, England was next with 2,260 ha of new woodland, with Wales (580 ha) and Northern Ireland (540 ha) completing the list. 

But EFRA's new chair Sir Robert Goodwill, who recently replaced Neil Parish, has welcomed Defra's responses today.

He said: “This is a very positive response from the government. The committee can feel that its work on the tree planting issue was worthwhile.

READ MORE: EFRA tree planting report 2022: 300 woodland creation roles must be filled by 2025

“The government has told us how much woodland it plans to see planted in England – over 29,000 hectares by 2025. This provides welcome certainty to the sector and will allow the government to be held to account on the delivery of its ambitions There’s also a welcome commitment to improving mapping to ensure tree are planted in appropriate places." 

Defra's full response can be read here