England and Wales "must raise game" to match Scotland's tree planting

The Scottish Government has announced it will raise its annual tree planting target from around 22 million trees to 33m trees by 2024-25, putting it well ahead of the rest of the UK.

Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image: Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Scotland’s current target is 10,000 hectares per year - about 22 million trees, and double the 11 million trees that Defra says it will plant in England in the lifetime of the 2015-2020 UK parliament.

Trade body for forestry and timber Confor has warned that at current rates, even this target will not be met until summer 2027.

Its chief executive Stuart Goodall said: "The announcement by the Scottish Government means other administrations in the rest of the UK have to raise their game and make increased tree planting a priority in the same way Scotland's devolved government has done."

He added: "In Scotland, we see enormous ambition for forestry to deliver on the three pillars of environmental, economic and social benefit. In England, we have seen a dismal lack of ambition and planting described as pitiful by our members.

"The recent £19.2m Woodland Carbon Fund offers hope that planting will start pushing up, but we need large modern schemes to really make an impact and that requires a fit-for-purpose grant scheme to be in place - something we haven’t seen so far."

Conservative MP for Berwick Uopn Tweed Anne Marie Trevelyan, who is vice-chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry, has criticised the Government for its lack of tree planting ambition and said it should be looking at a figure more like 200 million trees.

But she said of the proposal to plant 650,000 trees at Doddington North Moor in Northumberland: "It is a scheme which has been designed sympathetically to fit into the local landscape and will have a positive impact in reducing downstream flood risks.

"It will also help reinforce the red squirrel buffer zone, protect jobs at the local sawmill and develop new employment by creating new supply chains."

In Wales meanwhile, just 100 hectares (only 220,000 trees) were planted last year – just 1/50 of the annual target of 5,000 hectares.

Chris Davies, Conservative MP for Brecon & Radnorshire and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Forestry, said: "There is a clear timber gap emerging in the 2030s due to the planting drop-off in the last 20 years.

"This is having a dreadful effect on the confidence and the investment plans of sawmills in my own constituency and many other businesses across the UK. We have to plant now or a proportion of the 80,000 jobs sustained by the forestry and timber sector will be lost."

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