Forestry and wood processing in the Borderlands

1 June 2018

The forestry and wood processing industry must be at the heart of a deal to revitalise the economy on both sides of the England/Scotland border, according to a new report.

Forestry and Wood Processing in the Borderlands Growth Deal was presented to Jake Berry MP, Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, when he visited Confor member EGGER, the largest manufacturing employer in Northumberland. More than 630 people work at EGGER’s chipboard plant in Hexham. 

The report stresses the significance of forestry and wood processing in Northern England and Southern Scotland in creating employment and driving economic growth and investment  - and says it should be a central part of the Borderlands Growth Deal. 

The document proposes three projects to stimulate the cross-border sector under the Borderlands Growth Deal: 

·       Creating the UK's first Forestry Investment Zone in Northumberland and Cumbria

·       Introducing a Strategic Timber Transport Fund in England to match the one operating in Scotland

·       Carrying out a future skills audit to ensure the industry has the people it needs to ensure future success. 

The Borderlands Growth Deal covers five local authority areas - three in England (Northumberland and Cumbria County Councils and Carlisle City Council) and two in Scotland (Dumfries & Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council). 

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: "This is an excellent contribution to the growing body of evidence showing the importance of forestry and wood processing to rural economies across the United Kingdom. I'm delighted that a Confor member is taking such a proactive role in these significant discussions about the Borderlands area - a part of the UK with a rich forest heritage, a thriving 21st century industry and enormous future potential." 

Bob Livesey, Commercial Director at EGGER in Western Europe, said: "EGGER has invested £250 million in its Hexham site in the last decade - but we need more wood to secure future market demands, investment, growth and jobs. We need to plant more trees and get the timber to market more quickly, effectively and sensitively." 

Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham, who organised Mr Berry’s visit, said: “As the biggest employer in my constituency, EGGER is a very significant business in the economy of the Tyne Valley. It is also a business that recognises its wider responsibility to the local community, to the wider region, and to the whole forestry and wood processing supply chain. I’m very pleased that the Minister was able to see the factory and to receive this highly positive and constructive report.” 

Councillor Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “EGGER is a bedrock employer in the county, which also has the largest productive forest planted in England for 30 years - now taking shape at Doddington, North Moor near Wooler. This is an excellent report with some really practical ideas to put forestry and wood processing at the heart of the Borderlands Growth Deal.”