Paul Brannen MEP, member of European Agriculture and Rural Development Committee led a delegation of forestry experts on a fact-finding tour of Northumberland. Part of the tour saw Paul plant the first conifer tree planted in a new commercial woodland in England in five years.
Paul Brannen's fact-finding mission was organised by Hexham-based EGGER Forestry, along with key figures from the UK forestry and timber sector.
He visited the Wallshield planting site with EGGER Forest Management's general manager Simon Hart who said: "This was a historic day for the Northumberland rural economy and marked the start of the first new conifer planting scheme in England for the last five years.
"All of us in the sector are pleased Wallshield got the go-ahead even though it had to be reduced in size from the original proposal, and credit must go to the Forestry Commission for steering it through in the face of opposition from the Northumberland National Park.
"It's fantastic to see this level of interest shown by a local MEP, who is championing the planting of more trees in the UK and will be lobbying on the region's behalf in Brussels."
Paul visited a harvesting site and a sawmill near Rothbury – as well as seeing how sawmill waste and roundwood unsuitable for other commercial uses can be used by companies such as EGGER in the manufacture of chipboard for the construction and furniture industries.
He was also updated on the Roots to Prosperity initiative that has won wide support from a range of partners and is looking to create 1000 new jobs in Northumberland.
The project, which is backed by industry, local authorities, the North East LEP and other major stakeholders is looking for 2,000ha of new productive woodland afforestation for each of the next 10 years – which represents about 10% of the land suitable for planting in the north of England.
Paul said "I am a strong supporter of forestry and am backing plans to increase woodland cover in the future, particularly in England. Forestry is good for jobs, leisure opportunities and also gives a boost to the environment. I was thrilled to plant a tree in a new commercial woodland but am disappointed that it's the first newly established woodland in England for five years. That is a real worry and we have to do better.
"The day essentially highlighted the life cycle of wood, from a tree planting to logging to a sawmill and then on to EGGER in Hexham to see how they create wood products for top spec kitchens and house builders. It was a useful day and I'm proud to be able to highlight the importance of forestry to the North East. It is a vital part of our economy and one which could grow in the future."