Timber supply and squirrel control key to action plan's success

8 June 2021

The “insatiable demand for wood products” by 21st century society must be recognised more fully in future tree planting plans in England.

Caroline Ayre, Confor’s National Manager for England, told an England Trees Action Plan members’ webinar that much in the plan was welcome, but two components were not fully developed - how to grow more of the timber we use in the UK, and grey squirrel control. 

“The industry welcomes the focus on green jobs, levelling up, skills, use of timber and the importance of forestry and wood in rural England,” she said. “Society has an insatiable demand for wood products and we need purposeful, well-designed, well-managed woodland. We must grow more wood in the UK for future use and that means sufficient productive planting to deliver the wood we need.” 

That meant planting a majority of softwoods, because that’s what was required to make the vast majority of those wood products - with some hardwoods. Currently, hardwoods only make up 8% of the wood produced in the UK, with around 80% of that hardwood resource being used for firewood. 

Watch the webinar - What does England's Trees Action Plan mean for forestry and wood businesses? 

Despite the need for large-scale conifer planting to deliver that softwood supply, Lord Goldsmith - the minister responsible for forestry - called for more “majority broadleaf planting” at the end of a video message to the event. 

Caroline Ayre noted that the Action Plan (link here) said there would be no distinction between hard- and softwoods. This was welcome because there was a clear need for mixed, modern and multi-purpose forestry, she said. She made a plea to critics of productive forestry: “Do not criticise us for what our predecessors did 40 years ago - work with us and reject the language of ‘non-native’ and ‘exotic’ species.”