FORESTRY expert Mike Tustin believes red tape inflicted on the industry by the English and Welsh governments’ forestry regulators played a significant role in delivering less than half of the planned new tree planting in 2022.

The government launched the England Trees Action Plan 2021–2024 in May 2021 with a stated aim of spending “over £500 million of the £640 million Nature for Climate Fund on trees and woodlands between 2020 and 2025”. It said the aim was to “at least treble” woodland-creation rates by the end of this parliament, reflecting England’s contribution to meeting the UK’s overall exciting and challenging aims of planting 30,000 hectares per year.

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The Tustins Woodland Market Review 2022 highlighted the negative impact of government inaction.

Mike Tustin of Tustins said: “We are probably hitting less than half the target of planted forests this year and that is mostly in Scotland.

“Forestry Commission England and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) need to take a very hard look at their procedures and regulations, as the potential for income streams that outstrip the bare timber values mean that new properties are likely to have a really solid future.

Forestry Journal: Mike Tustin Mike Tustin (Image: PR)

“Never has the basic ‘plant trees, absorb carbon, produce timber, enhance biodiversity’ message been more relevant, but this is not reflected in the raft of government departments who all seem to think they can say ‘no’ to nearly all planting. If we do plant productive plantations – which we can do – we might be able to play our part in heading off the climate change disaster we are walking into. As a country we also need to produce more of our own timber. If we don’t there may soon be a day when we will have difficulty buying wood in the ever-increasing and highly-competitive world market.”

He said a general lack of dialogue between qualified forestry advisors and relevant government departments is at the heart of the problem, creating a “broken” regulatory system, adding: “We are trying to engage all the time with the departments of the English and Welsh governments to ask exactly what they are doing. We are not seeing much movement or long-term planning or any meetings to talk about the situation and there is an industry-wide frustration. The regulatory landscape you have to deal with when you buy a forest just feels broken.”