Confor efforts secure Westminster forestry inquiry

13 July 2016

Confor has welcomed advanced news of an expected wide-ranging Westminster inquiry into the future of the UK forestry and timber industry.

Notice of the inquiry was made by Chris Davies MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry (APPGF) at a meeting of the group in the Houses of Parliament this week.

The inquiry will be conducted by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee and is likely to be announced in the autumn, with a call for written evidence, followed by oral evidence sessions in early 2017 and a report by spring 2017.

Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall, who will be expected to give evidence to the inquiry, said: "This is tremendous news and a real boost to the sector. I am delighted that Confor's lobbying work - and the hard work and commitment of Chris Davies MP - has paid off and that forestry and timber will get serious consideration by a parliamentary committee at this extremely important time for the sector." 

The APPGF meeting also discussed the implications of Brexit for the sector and Mr Goodall gave high-level details of a paper which Confor has commissioned to identify the range of potential impacts on the sector and how these could be managed during the exit process.

The paper will provide a framework for Confor's work in all areas of the industry likely to see an impact due to Brexit - including direct CAP funding, environmental legislation, exchange rates and trade rules, and activity in key sectors which use timber. 

Confor will then build on each area in more detail.

The APPGF also pledged to write urgently to the Under-Secretary of State for Environment and Rural Affairs to clarify the status of the remainder of the £1 million Forestry Innovation Fund announced in the March 2015 Budget.

An initial tranche of around £250,000 to fund Woodland Creation Planning Grants received a very positive response from the sector, with ten planting schemes coming forward totalling in excess of 1000 hectares.

Stuart Goodall said: "This funding was strongly welcomed by the sector as an important and cost effective tool to support the growth of forestry in the English regions. 

"Despite the narrow application window, the fund has unlocked a range and scale of proposals to plant productive forests not seen since the 1990s. This is extremely important as uncertainty around the impacts of leaving the EU has threatened to undermine confidence in tree planting.

"The projects supported by the funding will stimulate employment in rural areas where there are few alternative job opportunities and play a crucial role in delivering government targets for tree planting and carbon emissions reduction."

However, Mr Goodall said it was crucial that the remaining balance of the £1m fund was opened up soon to stimulate further planting, with a wider application window.

The letter will be sent on behalf of the APPGF this week.