Tree planting failure is subject of Westminster debate

2 December 2016

A DEBATE on tree planting will examine the reasons why the UK Government is seven years behind schedule in meeting its planting targets.

The Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 7th December was secured by Chris Davies, Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry. The forestry and timber industry contributes almost £2 billion a year to the UK economy and supports 79,000 jobs.

Mr Davies said: “The latest analysis of planting statistics in England by trade body Confor makes worrying reading. Tree planting delivers an enormous range of economic, environmental and social benefits and we will miss out on these benefits unless we can really raise our game. I hope the debate can start to identify what more can be done to hit the target of planting 11 million trees in the lifetime of this parliament.” (see ** at end)

Confor analysed planting rates since the new Government took up office in May 2015. The latest figures show that in the 18-month period from April 2015-September 2016, just 1.35 million trees were planted in England – and if planting continues at the same rate, the 11 million trees target will not be hit until summer 2027, more than seven years late.

“The 11 million target is neither ambitious nor linked to any policy objectives,” said Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor: promoting forestry and wood. “It is simply a carry-forward from the number of trees planted by the 2010-2015 Government.

“Forestry can provide the solutions to a range of 21st century problems – providing timber to tackle the housing crisis, helping to reduce the effects of both flooding and climate change, creating jobs and driving investment into rural areas and providing habitats for threatened wildlife. We should be planting many, many more than 11 million trees in the lifetime of this Parliament”

Mr Goodall has welcomed the £19 million Woodland Carbon Fund, launched last month to support tree planting, but said a less bureaucratic and costly approach to planting schemes was the key to long-term success in England.

“Scotland is planting, on average, over 15 million trees a year and the Cabinet Secretary is working with the sector in a determined drive to reach 22 million a year from next year. There is an understanding of the benefits and a real political will to tackle the barriers to greater tree planting.

“However, planting in Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as in England, is a fraction of this and far behind each countries’ aspirations for more forestry. We need to use this debate as a springboard to increase tree planting dramatically to support the economy and environment, and communities across the UK.”

Mr Goodall will give evidence to the EFRA (Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) committee inquiry into forestry next Tuesday, the day before the Westminster Hall debate.

  • The Westminster Hall debate will take place at 9:30am on Wednesday December 7th and is likely to last for 90 minutes.
  • Confor: promoting forestry and wood represents 1600 forestry and wood-using businesses across the UK.
  • Confor and The Woodland Trust urged the current UK Government to raise its planting ambitions by aiming to plant 7,000 hectares – around 15 million trees of new woodland per year. The target set by the previous Government (in 2013) was 5,000 hectares, around 12.5 million tree per year. Details here.