PROMOTING wood as a construction material and addressing fire safety concerns are among the key actions set out in a long-awaited blueprint to increase use of timber in construction. 

The Timber in Construction Roadmap also calls for improved data on timber and whole life carbon, and for the supply of sustainable timber products in England to be increased. 

Published on Monday, the strategy outlines the need to reduce the UK's reliance on imported wood. More than 80 per cent of the timber used in the country is from abroad, with only the USA and China ahead of the UK in terms of net imports. 

Forestry Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Investing in timber is investing in growth and levelling up. The built environment is responsible for a huge proportion of UK carbon emissions, and using home-grown timber in construction is key to reducing emissions.

“Promoting the use of timber as a building material is a key part of the government’s Net Zero Strategy. It will innovate the economy, play a role in creating green jobs and also help meet our tree-planting targets.”

According to ministers, only nine per cent of English new build homes were timber framed in 2019 in contrast to Scotland where this figure was 92 per cent. 

The timber in construction roadmap has long been touted by government, with industry figures critical of its efforts to promote the use of wood. A group of cross-party MPs published a damning report on ministers' efforts back in May 2022

READ MORE: Environmental Audit Committee: UK Government fails to tackle 'barriers' restricting use of timber in construction

Forestry Commission chief executive Richard Stanford said: “If we are to achieve net zero we must produce more timber through home grown trees and lock up carbon using the timber in our buildings. 

Forestry Journal:  Stuart Goodall welcomed the publication of the roadmap Stuart Goodall welcomed the publication of the roadmap

"We need to boost productive forestry in England to support timber security and reduce our over reliance on imports at the same time as tackling our nature crisis by improving biodiversity, improving water quality and giving people access to green spaces." 

The roadmap comes at a time when England's softwood plantings levels have dropped, with more hardwood planted annually in the nation in recent years. This has led to some concern of timber availability in the coming decades. 

Its publication closely follows the National Wood Strategy for England, which sought to address the country's productive forestry planting slump, among a number of other issues faced by the wider industry. 

Confor CEO Stuart Goodall said: "The report recognises the climate change mitigation benefits and additional economic activity that can be delivered from a thriving and growing domestic wood supply chain.

“Given support and encouragement from the UK Government, UK wood producers can help supply quality wood products that will reduce the UK’s reliance on imports, contribute positively to decarbonising the construction sector, onshore added value manufacturing and increase quality jobs in rural England. A key part of this will be securing an increased future supply of wood from England’s forests.”

You can read the full roadmap on the government's website.