Stuart Goodall, chief executive of Confor, which represents 1,500 UK forestry and wood-using businesses, said: "There is a different attitude in Scotland. The presumption is that we should find ways to plant modern, multi-purpose and well-designed forests in the right places. It is recognised that such forests can deliver good-quality rural jobs and investment and provide timber to build attractive, efficient new homes very quickly.
“At the same time, there are significant environmental benefits - tree planting helps mitigate the effects of climate change, reduces flooding and encourages biodiversity - as well as offering recreational opportunities."
EGGER has produced a document asking for the Borderlands Growth Deal to recognise the significance of forestry and wood processing to the North of England and south of Scotland. Other large wood processors in the Borderlands include A&J Scott near Wooler, BSW in Carlisle and James Jones & Sons in Lockerbie.
The document, supported by Confor and other forestry and wood processing businesses, calls for:
- A Forestry Investment Zone to stimulate new planting in Northumberland
- A Strategic Timber Transport Fund for northern England to match the one working successfully in Scotland, to create new forest roads and reduce pressure on fragile rural roads
- A skills audit to plug future gaps in the industry, especially drivers of forest machines.
Janice Rose, who leads on the Borderlands Growth Deal for Northumberland County Council, said a skills audit for a range of sectors, including forestry, would be in a high-level summary of the deal, due to be launched this autumn by the UK and Scottish Governments and five local authorities.
She said the team was also considering a timber transport officer role and that a pilot Forestry Investment Zone (FIZ) in north-west Cumbria could provide helpful feedback for future FIZs.
Ms Rose said forestry and wood processing was very much in the minds of the Borderlands Deal team. "It's not just about a Forestry Investment Zone, it's about how we embed forestry in everything," she said. This would involve 'opportunity mapping' local areas to examine how different land uses, such as farming, forestry and tourism, would work best in specific parts of the Borderlands - and how economic, environmental and social benefits would work together in those areas.