Confor welcomes Christmas-time tree planting commitment

21 December 2018

Confor, the leading UK forestry and wood processing body, has welcomed Government proposals to put its 25-Year Environment Plan on a statutory basis - including a commitment to significantly increase tree planting.

The Draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill published by DEFRA this week contains a pledge to plant 7500 hectares of new woodland in England each year until 2042 - to help the UK towards its target of increasing forest cover from 10 to 12 per cent by 2050.

It also contains a commitment to increase timber supplies in the UK, fight illegal deforestation, as well as giving the public a greater say in street tree management.

The Bill has been presented to Parliament and two House of Commons committees are consulting on its provisions before MPs vote on the Bill in 2019.

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: “The forestry and timber processing sector has been concerned for some time that England is way off the pace in new tree planting, with doubts about whether even the government’s Scrooge-like target of 11 million trees planted in the 5 years to 2022 would be achieved.

“The targets in the 25 Year Environment Plan were far more ambitious, but described as ‘aspirations’ by the previous Forestry Minister. Questions in Parliament confirmed Forestry Commission England had not adopted them as clear woodland creation targets.”

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recently said the government should increase tree planting from the current 9,000 hectares (ha) per year across the UK to 20,000ha by 2020, then triple it to 27,000ha by 2030. This would mean England playing its full part as well.

Mr Goodall said leaving the EU meant the Government now had an opportunity to prioritise tree planting and move the UK towards greater self-sufficiency in wood.   

“Currently, the UK is second biggest net importer of timber in the world behind China and that is simply not a position that any British Government should tolerate – we cannot export our responsibilities overseas.

“Enshrining clear and unambiguous targets for woodland creation in law is a positive step forward and one we hope MPs from all parties will welcome.  We look forward to working with new Forestry Minister David Rutley MP to make sure that we take the actions needed to set us on the way to meeting these new targets which will benefit the environment as well as rural communities across England.”