FORESTRY figures have called on the UK’s political parties to recognise the importance of the sector ahead of the general election.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak confirmed Brits will head to the polls on July 4 as the Conservatives bid to hold on to power. However, it is widely predicted that Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party will be handed the keys to Number 10 in a landslide victory.

“This general election looks set to be fought on the economy and who can be trusted to steer the country out of a cost-of-living crisis, tackle the debt mountain and generate the growth and income required to lift people out of poverty and fund over-stretched public services,” Confor’s chief executive Stuart Goodall said. “The forestry and wood-processing industry can contribute to that.”

Forestry Journal: Stuart Goodall has called on the political parties to focus on forestry Stuart Goodall has called on the political parties to focus on forestry

Ahead of next month’s vote, the industry body has developed a five-point plan it will be urging all political parties to deliver. 

  • Create more forests: As part of the CCC’s target, plant at least 9,000 ha annually in England, including at least 3,000 ha of wood-producing forests, and protect all our existing forests.
  • Create a Timber Security Strategy: Commit to a future level of sustained domestic wood production that will see the proportion of timber imports to the UK reduce, including from endangered forests overseas.
  • Promote Home-Grown Wood: Set a target to significantly increase the number of new homes in England built with domestically sourced timber frames by 2030.  Utilise government’s procurement power to make homegrown wood the material of choice for all government construction and renovation work.

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  • Develop a Skills Action Plan: To ensure these goals are met, implement a skills action plan in partnership with industry, to address workforce needs in the forestry and wood sector, including initiatives to help armed forces veterans enter the industry.
  • Communicate the big messages: Surveys repeatedly show that people love trees, and wood products, but don’t often join up the two. A communications campaign should promote the importance of forests, timber security, and the economic and environmental benefits of the forestry and wood sector.

Elsewhere, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) is calling for each party to empower the rural economy. 

President Victoria Vyvyan said: “For decades, governments of all colours have treated rural areas as a museum, failing to generate the conditions necessary for growth.”