Forestry Cross Party Group in Welsh Assembly

18 May 2018

Early in May Confor organised an introductory meeting with a view to establishing a Cross Party Group for woodlands, forestry and timber. The event was sponsored by Simon Thomas AM and was held in Tŷ Hywel, Cardiff Bay by kind permission of the Welsh Assembly.

The purpose of Assembly Cross Party Groups (CPG) is to provide a forum for Assembly Members from different parties to consider and discuss shared interests in particular subjects. We thought that, as woodland, forestry and timber is a sector that crosses many different policy areas and requires an interaction with a wider range of stakeholders than many other sectors, a CPG provided an opportunity to do that.

So, early evening on 16May saw Dr Eleanor Harris, Confor policy researcher, Gary Newman of Woodknowledge Wales and myself arriving at Tŷ Hywel (albeit a little early), to set things up.

Supported by members of the Confor Wales Committee, and after an introduction by Simon Thomas AM, Eleanor, Gary and myself gave presentations to set the scene. Eleanor gave a historic perspective of what benefits governments want to achieve for their citizens and brought that up to date, linking with the WB&FGA saying governments are still trying to achieve these things. I summarised the status of the forestry and woodlands sector at present, touching on supply and demand and Gary gave an inspirational presentation of what could be achieved by timber in construction, again linking to WB&FGA and climate change mitigation.

There followed a Q&A session chaired by Simon Thomas where the invited audience, from a wide range of interests, asked questions of the sector and it was clear that there was a great deal of interest in our sector from them. The event was supported by a good number of AM’s giving up their evening to take part.

It was unusual to have such a diverse range of participants gathered together, which in addition to the commercial forestry sector and NRW, included Coed Cymru and Llais Y Goedwig (representing community woodlands), Welsh Water, UK Climate Change Committee, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Institute of Welsh Affairs and many representatives from Welsh Government portfolios like Climate Change, Environment & Rural affairs, local housing and Forestry Policy unit.

There was overwhelming support for the concept of a CPG on woodlands, forestry and timber to create links with other devolved administrations across Wales and beyond and the meeting concluded with a resolution to move forward with that. Simon Thomas AM volunteered to chair the group and Confor was accepted as secretariat, the next stage is to register the group with the Welsh Assembly and start a work programme.

Our thanks go to Simon Thomas AM for sponsoring the event on our behalf and for all the help by his office in the background arranging venues, facilities and translation services. My thanks also to the Confor Wales Committee members for helping me along with Eleanor and Gary and to everyone that turned up to make it such a successful event.