THE full potential of forestry to deliver employment and economic growth could be unlocked for the first time in a generation after a policy statement from the Government on the future of the industry.
Both Confor and the CLA praised the response by the Coalition to the Independent Panel on Forestry report. Its focus on promoting the green economy could create thousands of new jobs in Britain’s fragile rural communities.
For Confor, Stewart Goodall said: “The establishment of the panel of business leaders to create a viable economic, social and environmental future for woodland and forest industries is especially welcome – but the report has a real balance to it and takes a bold and wise approach to the future of our forests.”
Mr Goodall, one of the 12 members of the Independent Panel, welcomed the pledge to hold the Public Forest Estate in trust for the benefit of the nation while giving it greater operational and commercial freedom to maximise those benefits.
“But the greatest breakthrough is the understanding that the economic success of forestry is the key to unlocking a whole range of benefits – not least the creation of jobs and economic growth in our fragile rural communities at a time when they really need help. This investment in our forests also provides income to invest in social and recreational improvements in our woodlands and delivers enormous environmental benefits; planting more trees will soak up more carbon and making more wood products creates carbon stores.”
CLA South East director Robin Edwards said: “This statement of forestry policy is timely and encouraging. It is particularly good that the Government has reiterated its pledge to give a higher priority to tree and plant health than ever before with up to £8.5million found from various sources to undertake in-depth research into tree diseases. We are also encouraged that it includes a promise that the Government will work with landowners to increase the amount of actively managed woodland and to review this process in five years’ time.”
The CLA South East director also highlighted the Statement’s backing for developing the voluntary woodland carbon market to reflect forestry’s low carbon credentials, and the announcement of a pilot scheme to reduce regulatory burdens on landowners who want to plant woodland.
For Confor, Mr Goodall said he saw great potential in the panel of business leaders led by Dr Peter Bonfield. The new group, working under the banner Grown in Britain, will look at creating market demand for the wood industry supply chain and explore new market opportunities to drive new jobs, skills and growth.”This picks up on the Panel recommendation to develop a Wood Industry Action Plan,” he said. Confor led industry discussions with government on what that plan might look like and also produced an influential report that demonstrated how at least 7,000 new jobs could be created by forest and wood-using businesses. Confor is delighted the government has recognised there are ways to stimulate economic activity in forestry at low cost to the public purse,” said Mr Goodall. “The next task is to move forward and to unlock the full potential of forestry to deliver employment and economic growth for the first time in a generation – and if we can do that, huge social and environmental benefits will accrue as a result.”