The report, ‘Branching out: a new ambition for woodland policies’ acknowledges the range of benefits of trees, woodlands and forests to Wales and the considerable potential of commercial forestry to contribute to Wales’ economic development. The report says that Wales has a fantastic opportunity to become increasingly self-sufficient in timber production. However, this aspiration is being seriously undermined as annual targets for woodland creation are not being met.
Recommendation 9, from a total of 13 in the report, deals specifically with the potential for growth in the commercial forestry sector. It recommends that the sector should be actively supported by Welsh Government including to (1) Agree with the forestry sector ambitious targets for Wales to become increasingly self-sufficient in timber production and less reliant on imports. (2) Consider changing the building regulations to promote the use of timber in construction.
We are very pleased to see the recognition of the fantastic opportunity for timber in construction and the increased use of home-grown timber. However, we do find the Welsh Government response lacked real commitment to this agenda. There seems to be a disconnect between the far reaching and radical ambitions of the Well-being of Future Generations Act and the relatively laissez-faire approach to the development of sustainable industries. For example, we need to see more ambitious regulations on building performance to put Wales back on the zero-carbon agenda. We would also like to see embodied carbon reduction come into the regulatory framework. Also public procurement needs a radical overhaul so that whole-life value becomes more important than up-front cost. Read the full Welsh Government response here.