Forestry Minister has his feet on the ground in Northumberland to explore tree planting opportunities
Forestry Minister, David Rutley MP, visited Northumberland on Friday 19th July, to meet Confor (Confederation of Forestry Industries), stakeholders aiming to improve low tree planting rates across England. The Minister heard first-hand about the barriers and frustrations faced by landowners looking to plant trees and discussed the successful processes adopted across the border in Scotland.
The Minister began with a tour of the EGGER Sawmill in Hexham, followed by a round table discussion on the forthcoming tree strategy and a meeting with Northumberland National Park. The afternoon was an opportunity to visit Wallshield Farm near Haltwhistle, meeting farmer and Davidson & Robertson Forestry Manager, Iain Kyle, who gave a pragmatic insight into the issues faced when tree planting in England.
Iain Kyle has practical experience of how the processes for tree planting schemes work both sides of the Scotland/England border. He has planted trees on his own Northumberland farm, and, in his role as Forestry Manager with Davidson & Robertson, has valuable experience of delivering schemes across Northern England and Scotland too.
The Government launched the Clean Growth Strategy in 2017 (updated April 2018), intending to enhance the benefits and value of our natural resources, designing a new system of agricultural support that delivers better environmental outcomes and addresses climate change.
Their aim is to establish a new network of forests in England, funding larger-scale woodland and forest creation, committing to plant 11 million trees this parliament, and increasing the amount of UK timber used in construction. England is currently falling short of this target (only 3.5m planted so far), and Confor is campaigning to bring a forestry investment zone (FIZ) to Northumberland. The Minister’s visit aimed to get a better understanding of what could be developed.
During his morning visit to EGGER’s, Forestry Minister David Rutley MP said “Tree planting is increasingly recognised as an effective way to reduce net emissions and respond to the climate emergency. Forests are not only a carbon sink, but help with preventing the erosion of soils, and reducing flood risks, whilst also providing us with fantastic recreational spaces. A great example of this is Kielder Forest, which at 250 square miles is England’s largest forest. I strongly believe that we must raise our level of ambition and plant more trees: we need to go a lot further and I see Northumberland playing an integral part of this.
“We are currently developing an English Tree Strategy. This strategy will set how out we wish to accelerate woodland creation in this country and to deliver the level of afforestation required to reach net-zero by 2050.”
Following his speech, the Minister travelled to the Sill to meet Northumberland National Park members before visiting woodland schemes with Iain Kyle and Confor delegates.
From a fell top vista, Iain Kyle led a discussion on the scheme opportunities, types of timber in demand and the difficulties faced when planting his first scheme – noting the many of the English policy and procedural issues identified four years ago, have still not been ironed out.
Iain said “It was fantastic to have a discussion on the ground where you could see both sides of Hadrian’s Wall – which only went to illustrate the differences between the successful processes that everyone knows and understands in Scotland and the difficulties and complexities we face in England.
Planting experience at Davidson & Robertson
“At Davidson & Robertson around 70% of our woodland planting and management work is in Scotland, but with less English red tape we’re looking forward to that changing. Anything that can make it easier will make tree planting more appealing in England.
“We have several Northern England clients with tree planting proposals in the pipeline and we’re proactively dealing with the issues, but unnecessary complexities stifle and slow the process down. I hope today is a springboard to develop a process in England that encourages us to plant a greater number of trees – and more diverse species.”
Tree diversity became a topic of debate, in which Iain concluded “It was great to hear Sir William Worsley – the Government’s Tree Champion, backing up what I said about planting a more diverse mix of trees. The timber market wants conifers which have seen a lot of R&D – sawmills prefer this because it is akin to ‘supermarket perfection’, but consumers are becoming more aware of wood, designing it into homes as a feature, so there is certainly more potential to grow the British Broadleaf timber market. This, in turn, will give us scope for more diverse planting.”
Athole McKillop, Chair of Confor said “Today’s discussions demonstrate the need for common thinking. Rather than looking for issues, it’s about using the knowledge, taking it forward and improving the process – something reinforced on our afternoon visit with Iain who has a very straight forward approach.”
Commenting on his visit the Minister said “Confor in Northumberland has an encouraging sense of purpose and today’s visit is made even better by coming out on the ground. Talking to Iain, he has a positive attitude and a can-do approach, looking at the challenges as opportunities in a very practical way and looking for lessons to improve rather than just seeing problems. Planting alongside farming for sustainable income, his story is an excellent case study.”
For more information about forestry and woodland planting contact Iain Kyle at Davidson & Robertson on 01900 268 633