Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our Latest from the Woods newsletter (previously Forestry Latest News ), which is emailed out at 4PM every Friday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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DECEMBER has been a month of blueprints in forestry. Ink had barley dried on the long-awaited National Wood Strategy for England when the equally anticipated Timber in Construction Roadmap dropped unexpectedly one Monday afternoon. 

At this time of the festive rush, you'd be forgiven for not having examined both in minute detail, but a common theme is shared; wood is good and England needs a lot more of it.

Both documents also share ambitious hopes for what the future might hold for the nation's woodlands, and rally against the current rate of imported timber into the UK, which stands at around 80 per cent annually. 


The real proof for the roadmaps will be in the pudding, and whether or not they lead to genuine change that addresses England's planting woes, lack of woodland management, and declining conifer stock. 

Forestry Journal: Co-author Tom Barnes presented the National Wood Strategy at Confor's December Conference Co-author Tom Barnes presented the National Wood Strategy at Confor's December Conference (Image: Supplied)

Below we're taken a look at a few key points raised in the National Wood Strategy for England. This is, of course, just a taster, and the full document can be read here


For Government
• Support a more ambitious target of achieving at least 17.5 per cent tree and woodland cover in England by 2050.
• Add specific detail to the statutory target by describing woodland types and the proportions of planned planting by type.
• Adopt a specific target of 104,000 hectares of new stocked conifer forest in England by 2050.
• Create a predictable, transparent and time-bound application process to encourage landowners and investors to create woodland. 
• Continue to improve the offer to farmers, starting with an end to the permanency rule for new fast-growing productive timber crops.

Forestry Journal:

For Industry
• Work with partners to develop effective resilience plans for productive woodlands.
• Invest in new wood processing technologies and capacity, in line with wood fibre availability and demand.
• Invest in accelerated research, development and manufacturing of long-term products made from a range of tree species grown in the UK, now and 
in the future.
• Explore opportunities for improving resource efficiency and adding value.
• Support and fund research into the structural characteristics of wood from selected conifer species.

For Collaboration
• The England Forest and Wood-Based Industry Leadership Group (ILG) should assemble a representative board to deliver this strategy and to monitor its implementation.
• Develop and implement a ‘Timber Sector Deal’.
• Form a collaborative cross-sector group to support delivery of the statutory target. 
• Accelerate improved tree breeding programmes for selected timber-producing tree species.
• Develop a strategy for sustainable seed and sapling supply in England.
• Continue support and funding for the Forestry Skills Forum.


Forestry Journal: Sir William WorsleySir William Worsley

Sir William Worsley: "In order to meet our statutory targets to increase tree cover, it needs to be easier, quicker and more financially viable to grow trees, and an enhanced sector capacity and seed supply is required. We must also not forget the 1.3m hectares (ha) of existing woodland, of which only around 60 per cent is currently sustainably managed. Bringing more of this woodland into management is essential." 

Woodland Heritage: "This timber strategy is significant for several reasons. Firstly, for the first time, it gives equal recognition to both the hardwood as well as the softwood industries. Secondly, it is informed by silviculture as much as the economics of productive woodland: it gives equal ranking to construction lumber as to high-quality furniture timber." 

Co-authors Tom Barnes and Andy Leitch: "During the last 30 years the Government’s policy and approach have discouraged landowners and investors from planting areas of productive conifers. This has  also applied to productive broadleaves. 

"The focus of forestry policy in England is clearly changing and we welcome the open support from the Minister for Forestry for an increase in productive forestry and a greater use of home-grown timber in construction.

Forestry Journal: Andy Leitch Andy Leitch (Image: Stock image)

"While this is encouraging, it is important to point out that there remains a disconnect between what is being said and the present reality on the ground." 


Forestry Journal:

"Forestry Commission data from 1997 indicates that in the last 24 years, the area of conifer in England has decreased by 40,000 ha. If the 40,000 ha had been replanted, or replaced elsewhere, it could potentially have provided a crop of approximately 16 million cubic metres (m3) of timber – the equivalent of eight years of harvest in England." 


While broadly welcomed by the wider industry, the Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) said in a statement: "We wholeheartedly support the intentions of the National Wood Strategy for England, but at the same time must recognise that this does not represent the breadth of our membership."