The current picture – a land sales perspective
William Dalrymple, Davidson & Robertson Associate, is responsible for forestry and land sales across Scotland.
There are larger companies that provide detailed land sales updates which we will reference, but this article provides a D&R specialist perspective, based on the work we carry out for clients and organisations on the ground.
The Scottish forestry market is an essential component of Scotland’s economy and natural landscape. With its vast expanses of forests, Scotland has long been recognized for its rich forestry resources and the sustainable management of its woodlands.
Forestry in Scotland has multiple facets, including timber production, conservation efforts, recreational activities, and environmental benefits. The sector contributes significantly to the country’s rural economy, providing employment opportunities, supporting local communities, and promoting sustainable land use practices.
Scottish Forestry market analysis
Analysis of the commercial forestry market shows that 2022 and early 2023 have proven to be slightly quieter in terms of volume of sales compared to 2020 and 2021 but the average sale price has continued to climb year on year. Over 2022, the average sale price of a hectare of stocked commercial forestry increased by 47% from £19,000 per hectare in 2021.
The mixed and amenity woodland markets have seen a sizeable increase in interest and so too in values achieved per hectare of woodland. With lifestyle trends focussing on sustainability and environmental friendliness there has been a large rise in public interest in trees and demand for amenity woodland has shot up over the last couple of years.
Prices achieved for amenity woodland are heavily influenced by the characteristics of the woodland. Location, privacy, and access are all key matters that influence the price paid for smaller blocks of woodland. However, this smaller market is heavily influenced by the economic climate, and it was noticeable towards the end of 2022 that the levels of demand were waning and so far in 2023, we have seen a continued lower demand level for amenity and mixed woodland.
Forestry and sustainability
One notable aspect of the Scottish forestry market is its commitment to sustainability. Scotland has been at the forefront of adopting sustainable forestry practices, aiming to balance economic gains with environmental preservation. The Forestry Commission Scotland, now known as Forestry and Land Scotland, plays a crucial role in managing the country’s forests and ensuring responsible woodland management.
Timber production is a major component of the Scottish forestry market. The demand for timber has been steadily increasing, driven by construction projects, renewable energy initiatives, and the growing popularity of timber as a sustainable building material. Scotland’s timber industry has embraced innovative technologies and practices to maximize efficiency, minimize waste, and reduce its environmental impact.
In recent years, there has also been a growing emphasis on diversifying the uses of forests beyond timber production. Forest recreation and tourism have gained prominence, with forests offering opportunities for activities such as hiking, wildlife watching, and camping. This has not only provided economic benefits but also contributed to the overall well-being of local communities and visitors.
Scottish Forestry market in the future
The Scottish forestry market has faced challenges as well. Climate change, pests, and diseases pose risks to the health and resilience of forests. Efforts are being made to mitigate these challenges through improved forest management, monitoring systems, and research initiatives.
Moreover, the Scottish government has set ambitious targets to increase woodland cover in the country, aiming to reach 21% by 2032. This commitment reflects Scotland’s recognition of the multiple benefits that forests provide, including carbon sequestration, biodiversity conservation, and natural flood management.
Overall, the Scottish forestry market is a dynamic and evolving sector that combines economic, environmental, and social considerations. Through sustainable management practices, commitment to biodiversity conservation, and the promotion of responsible timber production, Scotland continues to showcase the importance and potential of a thriving forestry industry.
The current picture – a forestry perspective
Keith Muir, Davidson & Robertson Associate Director, is responsible for forestry has been reviewing the forestry timber and land market.
The timber market
In forestry terms, top level timber prices have dropped off, but this is the norm during summer months and should not be viewed as any different. We have seen an unprecedented period of high timber prices and the market is still strong, but it may take some time to get back to those higher levels.
Commercial woodland is still required to reduce the massive imports that the UK continues to need to supply the building trade. We know there is a need for homegrown timber and there is still plenty of movement. Good management of forests should not stop. That being said, careful consideration of location and timber quality plays an important part of deciding if timber should be placed on the market.
Removing timber in summer months
Landowners should be pushing contractors to remove timber as swiftly as possible from roadside stocks during the summer heat wave to reduce the effects of moisture reduction. It is also a good time to look at locations with high water tables – timing your access needs careful consideration.
With increasing pressures on water management, harvesting difficult sites can be cost prohibitive, so extended dry spells often facilitate improved access and reduce damage from extraction. I would also issue caution as dry spells can also hide small burns and drains, so vigilance and good site supervision are essential.
Demand for land with forestry potential
Demand for unplanted ground remains high, with increasing interest around natural capital and carbon potential. At the time of writing the support to improve peatland remains at 100%, but demand is high on restoration design management professionals. As a result, the route being offered is via a feasibility study that takes a little longer but does produce and include a full restoration plan and creates a pipeline for the projects to be delivered.
Woodland carbon projects are an excellent way of securing your own carbon neutrality and if at a scale that allows it, to be able to sell any excess carbon.