On Wednesday 11 May, the Wood Panel Industry APPG and Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF) were delighted to host a Parliamentary reception focused on the importance of forestry investment in the UK.

Selaine Saxby MP as APPG Chair, welcomed Jo Churchill MP, Minister for Minister for Agri-Innovation and Climate Adaptation, as the event’s guest speaker. A recorded address was also provided by the Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, Minister with responsibility for Forestry Policy.

The event also featured a build a cabinet challenge which saw MPs testing their DIY skills!


Congratulations to our APPG Chair, Selaine Saxby MP, who has promoted to the position of Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).


An “astonishing £3.34 billion” of taxpayers’ money has been paid by the UK Government in Renewable Heat Incentive payments over the past decade, a scheme which subsidises wood-burning while a potential shortage of wood is threatening the UK’s construction sector. 

These are key points raised in a report commissioned by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the wood panel industry which represents the UK’s six industrial plants producing wood-based materials for the construction industry. 

The report calls for an end to the Renewable Heat Initiative and warns that any future subsidy regime for biomass “must be predicated on completion of a comprehensive and robust assessment of subsidy impact upon wood supply”. 

The cost of RHI last year alone stood at more than £800 million. While the scheme closes to new non-domestic entrants in 2021 and domestic the following year, the UK Government is currently considering future subsidy arrangements following consultation. 

The report points out that it takes 30 years to replace every tree that is chopped up into biomass pellets for burning and warns: “The UK wood supply is finite – and if wood is being burned for subsidy, it cannot be used in the construction industry as was the intention when these trees were planted”. 

The six UK wood processing plants are located close to the forestry plantations from which their raw material comes. The report warns: “If the industry becomes dependent on imported timber (as is already happening), that rationale disappears”. 

Collectively, the six plants directly provide more than 2000 well-paid jobs as well as many more indirectly. These, says the report, “are directly dependent on this issue being addressed by the Government.” 

It also asserts that “open-ended subsidy to burn a scarce natural resource is inconsistent with the Net Zero commitments made by administrations across the UK”. 

The report states: “In the longer term, the answer might lie in planting more trees. However, (this) offers no prospect of early relief — the benefits of planting over the next few years will not be realised until 2040-60. 

“Forestry planting has been in decline in the UK since the 1970s and that is the legacy the industry is now living with. Inevitably, therefore, the biomass sector is currently — and for the next 20 years — relying on planting which took place with other purposes in mind, long before the RHI existed”. 

Selaine Saxby MP, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group and whose North Devon constituency includes a large wood panel manufacturing plant at South Molton, said: “Wood is too important a resource to burn. 

“That is the basic contention of those of us who are calling on the UK Government to reconsider support for the Renewable Heat Incentive before a crisis is created for other users of our finite forestry supply”.

Alastair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation and Secretary of the Expert Working Group for the Wood Panel Industry, commented: “We have a successful industry providing high quality employment and with ambitions to invest and expand, particularly in response to increased demand for housing. Increased use of wood in construction is also consistent with the Government’s environmental agenda. “All we are asking is for recognition from Government that wood is a finite resource and there is a conflict between burning it as fuel with taxpayer subsidy and using it for the purposes intended when trees were planted. Security of wood supply is now a major concern in determining our members’ investment plans”.


David Rutley Group Shot 2

(Left to right:- Simon Hart – EGGER Forestry Business Development Manager; John Paterson – Director of EGGER Forestry; Guy Opperman MP for Hexham; Tobias Zimmermann, Plant Director, Technical/ Production, EGGER UK; David Rutley MP, Minister for Food and Animal Welfare; Alastair Kerr – Director General, Wood Panel Industries Federation)

David Rutley MP, Minister for Food and Animal Welfare, with the responsibility for forestry policy in England, visited Northumberland’s largest manufacturing site EGGER (UK) Limited, Hexham on Friday 19th July along with the UK Government’s Tree Champion, Sir William Worsley.

This is the second UK Government Minister to visit EGGER’s Hexham plant this year, with the Minister of State for Energy and Clean Growth, Rt Hon Claire Perry MP visiting in March 2019. These visits followed the publication of the APPG for the Wood Panel Industry’s Expert Working Group Report. David Rutley MP’s visit provides a welcomed recognition of the wood panel industry’s role in supporting a strong forestry policy post-Brexit.

EGGER (UK) Limited has invested a substantial £250 million in UK operations in both Auchinleck and Hexham. This is to ensure it remains at the heart of wood-based materials production within Europe, with now over 800 direct employees. EGGER (UK) Limited’s two manufacturing sites deliver the equivalent of 27,500 lorry trailers of wood-based materials each year.

The Minister used the visit to deliver a welcomed speech to stakeholders on increasing forestry cover in Northumberland and across the nation, highlighting the new Environment Bill and forthcoming Tree Strategy as the UK Government’s latest commitment to bolstering tree planting in England.

Forestry Minister David Rutley MP said: “There is no doubt that forestry is a vital industry in Northumberland, and my visit to Egger’s impressive Hexham plant only confirmed this.

“I believe passionately that tree planting must be at the heart of our plans as a government. I look forward to continuing discussions with Egger and other stakeholders in the forestry sector on how we can work together in partnership to achieve our ambitious goals.”

John Paterson, Director, EGGER Forestry commented: “We were delighted to have the Minister visit our plant where we were able to show him the manufacturing process and range of panel-based products produced in Hexham. Northumberland is a fantastic location for afforestation and we look forward to further discussion on the future of large-scale planting opportunities. EGGER makes a considerable contribution to both the local and national economy and as a company we are encouraged by the initial steps taken recently in terms of woodland creation targets which will be a key component for promoting confidence for this domestic industry in the years ahead.”

Alastair Kerr, Director General of the Wood Panel Industries Federation (WPIF) added: “We were pleased to continue the constructive conversation with the Minister on the challenges facing our industry as a whole. The principal issue facing the industry is wood security and constraint upon long-term supply limits its growth potential. Future forestry policy needs to detail key planting targets for the next twenty years, which will prove a crucial time for the wood panel industry. We look forward to further discussion on this and energy policy in order to secure the long-term future of this critical domestic industry.”

Guy Opperman, MP for Hexham said: “It was fantastic to have David Rutley MP,  the DEFRA Minister, visit Egger in Hexham. It was an incredibly productive meeting with representatives from across the Forestry sector. He will have left the event in no doubt that we want more forestry in Northumberland, which will not only result in more forestry sector jobs but will also build us a better environment.”