New jobs will be created in the forestry industry after a £23m scheme to maximise the sector’s growth in the North East was launched.
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Elizabeth Truss welcomed the project yesterday at an event at the Egger plant, in Hexham, Northumberland.
Around 1,000 new jobs in forestry management and timber processing will be created through the scheme, which has been commissioned to provide a case for how the sector can achieve its full potential.
Experts say the programme – called Roots to Prosperity – will deliver low-carbon growth and sustainable economic development across rural and urban communities.
Ms Truss said: “Our forests are cherished for the enjoyment they bring us, and for the crucial role they play in supporting Britain’s economic prosperity and environment.
“It’s great to see different interests working together to unlock the potential of our forests and woodlands.”
The plans, launched at Egger – the biggest user of wood from Kielder Forest – were supported by Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham and Yorkshire county councils.
Stuart Goodall, chief executive of the Confederation of Forest Industries, said: “We have been working with members and partners for more than 18 months now, so we are delighted to see this exciting work coming to fruition.
“It has been hugely gratifying to see the commitment to investment provided by the wood-processing industry over the last decade.
“However, going forward, we must see this matched by an equally enthusiastic commitment from landowners and investors to secure a continuing increase in domestic wood production well into the future.
“Wood supplies are set to peak, so-called ‘Peak Wood’, around 2025, and that represents a challenge to future investment that we have to respond to vigorously and immediately.”
MP for Hexham Guy Opperman, who officiated at the local launch of the plan, said: “I am proud that my constituency lies at the epicentre of England’s wood producing and processing sector, and that it has such a marvellous story of growth and investment to tell.
“I’m here today because rural jobs really matter, and forestry is a massive provider of those jobs.
“These employment opportunities are absolutely vital.
“We also need more trees to be planted. Although we have six major forests in my constituency, I wonder where the next one will be planted.
“I have seen for myself the world-class panel-board manufacturing facility that Egger have created.
“This is a key facet of the wood industry in the north, but so are the hundreds of small businesses involved in harvesting, haulage and woodland management work, and I wish the whole sector well in its drive for further growth.”