A NEW 40-year strategy for forestry in England will be created in a bid to reduce the country's reliance on timber imports. 

The National Wood Strategy for England (NWSE) will focus on the planting, growing, harvesting and processing of conifer and broadleaf trees for the production of timber and other wood-based products, and where possible, the reuse of wood.

Tom Barnes, the managing director of Vastern Timber, and Andy Leitch, the deputy chief executive of Confor, will author the Strategy, with input from DEFRA, the Forestry Commission and Forestry England.

READ MORE: Forestry Commission chief calls for end to 'dogma around conifers'

Announcing the news, a Confor statement read: "Why is the NWSE necessary now? For far too long productivity in English woodlands has been side-lined as a policy objective.

"As a result, tree planting targets have been routinely missed, the quality of the establishment of woodland creation has often been poor, and a generation of wood growth has been lost.

"As a country, we’re currently importing 80 per cent net of our wood products. This is not sustainable in the long term. As construction and other industries continue decarbonising, the World Bank forecasts global timber demand will quadruple by 2050, global competition for timber will intensify and the availability of UK-grown wood is forecast to drop significantly in 2040.

"To confront these challenges and realise the many opportunities that stem from a vibrant forestry and wood sector, we must take productivity back up to its rightful place. This has to be one of the key objectives of woodland creation in England, alongside biodiversity gain and carbon sequestration." 

The NWSE's launch comes amid calls from Richard Stanford, the chief executive of the FC, to rethink how England approaches trees. In a wide-ranging speech, given today at a Confor conference, he urged an end to the "dogma" around conifers, and said timber security should be taken as seriously as food security. 

The confor statement continued: "The NWSE will outline the necessary steps for increasing the nation’s wood production and utilisation.

"At the same time, it will highlight the benefits of productive forestry and the positive contribution this will make to our country’s strategic objectives.

"We hope this Strategy will usher in a change of attitude towards growing and harvesting trees for wood production, and the greater utilisation of homegrown wood for added value and low carbon products.

"We will argue that such a shift in attitude will unblock restrictions, unlock private capital and realise the full potential of our English woodlands and forests, and ultimately drive innovation and growth in wood processing and manufacture in existing and emerging wood-based products." 

The deadline for comments is 11 January. The NWSE will be published on 31 March 2023.

Submit your comments by email to caroline@confor.org.uk.