Woodland Statistics: Welsh Government praised for doubling tree planting
15 June 2023
The Welsh Government has doubled tree planting rates over the last year - but has been urged to maintain momentum to deliver lasting benefits for Wales’ environment and economy.
In the year to 31 March 2023, 1,190 hectares of new woodland (just under 3000 acres) was approved for planting - doubling the 580 hectares in the previous year.
Anthony Geddes, National Manager for Wales for forestry and wood body Confor, said: “This is positive news. Ministers deserve credit for putting a focus on planting more trees to provide future wood supplies to build more timber-framed homes in Wales. This helps to decarbonise construction by using less steel, concrete and brick, supporting Wales’ climate change targets.
“Planting more mixed-species woodlands also helps tackle the nature and biodiversity crisis - and provides jobs and economic growth in our rural areas.”
Mr Geddes said Deputy Climate Change Minister’s Lee Waters’ work to get tree planting on the agenda post-election, and the follow-up commitment of Climate Change Minister Julie James to pushing up planting rates, had been vital. Effective collaboration between Confor, the Welsh Government Forest Policy team and Natural Resources Wales has seen the woodland planning process overhauled and many barriers removed.
“We are making progress towards the Welsh Government target of 2,000 hectares of new planting every year, but still have a long way to go,” Mr Geddes added. “The Climate Change Committee says Wales should be planting 6,000 hectares of new woodland annually, and the forestry and timber industry is ready to work constructively with the Welsh Government to plot a path to that figure.”
Mr Geddes said recent significant increased grant support for woodland creation will be key to future rises in planting, along with a growing understanding that trees can have a wide range of benefits for farmers.
“Planting trees on farms can create a new long-term income stream for a rural business,” he said. “In the shorter-term, woodland can provide shelter for livestock, carbon benefits and firewood supplies. And it’s a positive way to diversify your farm business by planting trees on less productive land that is not suitable, or marginal, for agriculture.”
He urged the Welsh Government to maintain momentum by joining up policy effectively across the Climate Change and Rural Affairs departments. The new Sustainable Farming Scheme puts a strong focus on afforestation but is currently unclear on how to support farmers develop their existing woodland.
“The positive environmental and economic benefits of tree planting are being recognised,” he said. “But the process for administering planting grants must be smoother. Wales still uses funding windows, which delays the process of getting contracts approved and issued. If a scheme is a good one, and meets the criteria, it should be put forward for evaluation immediately.
“This can ensure Wales maintains momentum on tree planting - giving a boost to its rural economies and tackling both the climate and nature emergencies.”