19 August 1997

Forest project launched

By John Burns

TREE planting in north west Devon and north east Cornwall is to be given a boost with the launch of the South West Forest Project.

Launching the project, which covers 15,000ha (37,000 acres) at the recent South West Woodland Show, Forestry Commission director general David Bills said the projects success would depend on local knowledge, belief in the region, and skills of local people.

Government was keen to progress forestry in Great Britain as an environmental and economic resource for the people, he said.

The regions agriculture was in decline and CAP reform would reduce further the income gap between forestry and farming. The SW forest would broaden the areas economic base, create new jobs and maintain existing employment in the countryside.

The forest would grow from many individual plantings on farms. Mr Bills pointed to experience in Australia and New Zealand which showed that up to 15% of a farms area could be planted with trees without reducing its livestock carrying capacity.

Chris Roberts SW co-ordinator for the Timber Growers Association, said farmers help would be critical to the project. "Covering 15,000ha the forest must make sense for the rural economy. It needs to be farmer-based because they own the land. And the region already has an infrastructure of forestry skills and related knowledge," said Mr Roberts.

Timber grew better in SW England than anywhere else in Europe except Ireland and Portugal, he added. But the project would have to overcome the income gap between tree planting and timber production.

Laura Dyke, South West Forest project manager, said her immediate task was to raise awareness of existing tree planting grants, and to seek funding for demonstration plantings on suitable farms.

She wants to canvass farmers views on the project. "The bigger the clamour for help the more likely we are to get it." Her post is jointly funded by the EU Objective 5b, MAFF, local authorities, Forestry Commission, TGA, Rural Development Commission and related industry companies.


Flagging up the south-west forest. Project manager Laura Dyke is looking for funds.

Flagging up the south-west forest. Project manager Laura Dyke is looking for funds.