Confor sets out how Forestry Investment Zones could drive forward new planting in England

10 April 2018

A new era of productive planting in England could be the result if proposals for Forestry Investment Zones (FIZs) are delivered effectively.

Confor's new policy paper sets out how FIZs could work to deliver significant new planting after decades of decline in England. 

Caroline Harrison, Confor's England Manager, said recent comments from the UK Government about productive forestry had been positive. 

In the Clean Growth Strategy (October 2017), the Government said it would: “...unlock private finance to invest in forestry by establishing forestry investment zones to offer investors streamlined decision making and more certainty, within shorter timelines.”  

There was more detail in the 25 Year Environment Plan (January 2018): “We will encourage larger-scale woodland and forest creation, and direct commercial investment in new productive planting towards Forestry Investment Zones, using an inclusive approach to their selection. This will help to create the conditions associated with increased carbon sequestration, greater confidence in domestic timber supply and associated economic benefits.” 

Confor has identified areas in the west of England where there is already significant productive forestry planted, large areas of suitable and sizeable timber processing facilities in the vicinity as suitable for FIZs to be established.  

Cumbria has been selected for the first FIZ and Confor will work with Local Enterprise Partnerships to help identify suitable locations for large scale woodland creation that will attract investment. 

"The design of FIZs will be crucial to their success," said Caroline. "Confor has set out four key points to give landowners and managers confidence that woodland creation applications will be approved quickly, within a financially viable system." 

The four key points are: 

  • An easily understood traffic light system for identifying areas of land suitable (or not) for productive planting;
  • Grants for Woodland Creation plan preparation with a higher ceiling than now for larger schemes;
  • An application processing agreement committing all government authorities to reach decisions on applications within 12 weeks;
  • A presumption that new productive planting which meets the UK Forestry Standard will be approved. 

Caroline concluded: “We are in very exciting times, and FIZs represent a real opportunity to build on the woodland creation schemes at Lowther Estate and Doddington North Moor to deliver a new era of productive planting in England. The UK Government must work with the sector to deliver well-designed, simply-administered FIZs to support the planting and future management of modern productive forestry to deliver the myriad goods the public demands. Time is of the essence; it is often said that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, and the second best time is now.”