Confor welcomes new UK forestry minister

1 August 2016

Confor has welcomed confirmation that Dr Thérèse Coffey is the new UK Government minister responsible for forestry.

Dr Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, succeeds Rory Stewart MP as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA).  

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: "We look forward to working with Dr Coffey and discussing the main issues that the sector faces, especially how we drive up planting rates and secure the future of a vital rural industry worth more than £1.5 billion across the UK as the UK leaves the EU. To meet the Government target of planting 11 million trees in England between the 2015 and 2020 general elections, Confor estimates that almost 7,500 trees need to be planted every day.  

"We will work with Dr Coffey to help hit the target and the significant economic, environmental and social benefits it can deliver. We also look forward to presenting evidence to the EFRA committee on forestry, which presents a real opportunity for the sector to tell its compelling story to the new minister." 

Mr Goodall said Confor has already written to the new Minister welcoming her into the job and highlighting the need for urgent assurances over continued financing of support for tree planting.  

Mr Goodall added: "Shaping the future of our rural economy and communities after Brexit is an enormous task and Confor looks forward to working closely with Dr Coffey on this issue. We are encouraged by her answer to a parliamentary question, which makes clear that current funding arrangements for the rural economy will be honoured.  

"Another big area will be forestry and flooding. The benefits for planting more trees in upland areas to reduce downstream flood risks are now well-recognised and as Dr Coffey's portfolio also includes flooding, we will continue these important conversations about the enhanced role forestry can play." 

Mr Goodall also paid tribute to outgoing minister Rory Stewart MP, who has moved to Minister of State at the Department for International Development.  

He said: "Rory Stewart was an engaged minister who had developed a strong understanding of productive forestry and the important contribution it makes to the rural economy, environment and society. We wish him well."