Rory Stewart MP held the first meeting of his forestry and woodlands advisory group this year, to focus specifically on the future of commercial forestry in the North of England. Attended by key local representatives from the timber industry, the advisory group were briefed by the United Kingdom Forestry Products Association on the need for a significant increase in commercial planting if timber production is to continue to meet long-term demand. The UKFPA have produced a report – Roots to Propserity – which considers opportunities for growth and development in the North of England, and the think tank reflected on how best the timber industry could identify suitable land for new planting.

As an industry which employs over 2,500 people in Penrith and The Border – more than a third of the total number of forestry and wood-processing jobs in England – and which brings in over £600m per year to the local economy, Rory Stewart set up the think-tank in 2011 to identify what more government can be doing to support local timber businesses. In the latest meeting, the local MP agreed to work further with the industry to identify if government mechanisms can be setup that would help address the financial risk and complexity of the application process. In some cases, the process is currently dissuading commercial planters from sourcing new land, which could lead to a potential timber shortage in the future.

Speaking after the meeting, Rory Stewart said:

“Forestry and timber production is such an important part of the local economy, and a huge source of local employment here in Cumbria. We are very lucky to have such a depth of expertise and experience in our local timber industry and we need to capitalise on this, to ensure the industry’s future in the North of England – and particularly in Penrith and The Border – is secure. Local businesses today identified where they have concerns, and I hope I can continue to work alongside them to come up with solutions that benefit local communities and the local economy.”

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