England is known as a green and pleasant land, but it seems we can’t always see the wood for the trees when it comes to our own timber industry.
Up to 80 per cent of wood used in the UK is imported. According to forestry experts we are simply not taking advantage of opportunities to create a thriving wood industry, and all the economic benefits this could bring.
A Government backed report, carried out last year by the Independent Panel on Forestry, revealed that the potential for the wood fuel market alone could generate as much as £1 billion in total revenues and as many as 15,000 jobs by 2020. The report also revealed that our public forest estates are valued to be worth around £400 million a year to the UK – a staggering six times more than the £72 million per year they cost to manage.
In response to the report’s findings, government and business leaders have joined forces to create the ‘Grown in Britain’ action plan with the aim of building a viable economic future for the UK’s wood industry. Environment Secretary Owen Patterson, has appointed Dr Peter Bonfield OBE, to lead the plan.
Dr Bonfield, chief executive of the Building Research Establishment (BRE), has spent the last 20 years promoting innovations and sustainability across a number of sectors. Revitalising the timber supply chain will be one of his main priorities in the Grown in Britain plan.
The UK currently only harvests around 40 per cent of its available wood, and yet it has the potential to offer numerous benefits to the UK green economy in various sectors. For instance, using wood as a building material instead of steel, could save saves 0.9 tonnes of CO2 per cubic metre. It also has the advantage of being 24 times more efficient as a building material than steel.
Creating a vibrant wood industry in the UK will also deliver social benefits, which in turn can be good for our economy.
The forestry report suggests if everyone in the UK had access to quality green space, £2.1 billion could be saved in health care costs, and more widespread woodlands throughout the UK could reduce the social costs of air pollution by £16 billion per year.
Dr Bonfield explained: “This initiative will not only have a positive impact on UK business, but most importantly on our society and the environment.”
He will spend the coming weeks assembling a panel of business leaders to help him establishing a market demand-led action plan for the sector.