Lack of focus risks felling Government tree planting plans, says committee

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The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has recommended more comprehensive annual planting targets, better finance schemes and more accurate mapping if the government is to achieve its aim of creating 30,000 hectares of new woodland every year in the UK by 2025.

The Committee’s new report, Tree Planting, also calls on ministers to seize the opportunity to expand domestic tree production, the forestry sector workforce and to increase the amount of domestic timber used in UK building and construction.

Neil Parish, Environment, Chair of the Food and Rural Affairs Committee, commented on the announcement: “Government really must get its act together. As it stands, this plan does not even have annual targets for the number of hectares of new woodland to be planted in England.

“Meanwhile, the Committee heard that the UK imported more than 80 per cent of the wood it used in 2020. We should aim to meet all the UK’s planting needs from domestically grown trees.

“We welcome the government’s ambition for woodland creation, but crucial details are still missing – including the types of trees to plant, the land they will be planted on and the finance for these projects.

“Expecting landowners to forge ahead without more support is simply not realistic. Government must demonstrate its working to demonstrate how tree planting is economically viable. If we want tree planting to pay for itself, clear incentives for action are required – both in Government subsidies for planting, and from timber sales.

“Farmers and growers need certainty to plan ahead. There is a troubling lack of clarity about Government plans – how, what and who will deliver England’s tree planting ambitions. The UK’s commitment net zero, biodiversity and nature recovery are essential to the health of our plant and future generations, we must make sure they are delivered.”

Recommendations of the Committee’s ‘Tree Planting’-report include:

  • New woodland creation must deliver the principle of planting the ‘right tree in the right place’. This can only be delivered if proper mapping data is available to inform planting decisions. By May 2022, Defra, the Forestry Commission and Natural England must set out a plan to complete their data mapping.
  • It is ‘not clear’ whether the Government has allocated enough funding to support tree-planting and woodland management. By September 2022, Defra and HM Treasury must set out what level of planting can be achieved with the current funding levels and create a plan to bridge the gap that exists between this and its planting ambition.
  • Increasing the amount of domestic timber the UK uses is essential for the long-term economic viability of woodlands, whilst also storing carbon and reducing reliance on imported wood. Defra needs to produce a clear, economically-focussed action plan which will double the amount of domestically produced timber the UK consumes and provide guidance on what trees the sector should grow to meet domestic demand.

The report is available on the UK Parliament website.