Confor takes timber supply issue to Welsh Government

15 May 2019

Confor has led a forestry and wood processing delegation to meet the Welsh Government - after the industry delivered a vote of no-confidence in the timber operations of Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, agreed to meet the industry after acknowledging serious concerns over timber supply in Wales and how the issue was being handled by NRW.

Anthony Geddes, Confor’s Manager for Wales, said: “We had a very good meeting with the Minister and concentrated on looking towards a positive future for NRW and our industry. This included a recognition that new woodland creation needs to be kick-started with additional funding and that improving the application process and windows could make a real difference.

“It was also encouraging to hear the Minister recognising the positive link between tree planting and tackling climate change - especially as Wales has just declared a climate emergency, with Lesley Griffiths leading on the issue.”

David Sulman, Deputy Chief Executive of Confor, who also attended the meeting, said: “The Minister has undertaken to continue supporting Natural Resources Wales through their current change programme. Confor will continue to engage constructively with NRW and the Welsh Government to deliver a brighter future for our industry, which we must remember is worth £500 million annually to the Welsh economy and employs around 10,000 people. In the meantime, it is essential that NRW immediately improves its customer focus and customer service.

The meeting with Lesley Griffiths was also attended by leading Confor members from Wales.

Confor's engagement on the issue also included a meeting with Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, earlier this month, where Mr Geddes and Confor CEO Stuart Goodall were again supported by industry members.

Mr Goodall said: “We had a positive meeting with Clare Pillman and believe the industry can work constructively with her to implement the fundamental changes required to ensure that NRW delivers on its commitment to the forestry and wood processing industry in Wales.”

Confor sent the no-confidence letter to NRW in January and a summit involving Confor, the processors and NRW was held in late February - when NRW committed to help the industry through the process of  change.

A review of NRW timber sales by Grant Thornton has led to a restructure, with harvesting and supervision place-based across six areas. Day-to-day management of contracts will be locally driven, delivered and monitored, with national quality standards. A sales and timber marketing plan will be delivered centrally through a single timber marketing plan. 

Confor is also developing a forestry and wood processing industry strategy for Wales, supported by the Welsh Government - including the use of timber in construction, economic benefits, enhancing biodiversity and decarbonisation. Confor hopes to present its initial findings at the Royal Welsh Show in July.