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Kier Living's carbon investment is supporting sustainable timber in the UK

Posted on Friday, September, 1st, 2017

With the UK being the third largest importer of timber in the world, after China and Japan, and with UK woodland cover at only 12% (against an EU average of around 38%) it is vital that we increase planting rates of a material that is only going to become more important over time in a sustainable construction industry.

This is the background to the decision by Kier Living – the housebuilder – to mitigate its carbon footprint by working with Forest Carbon to create new UK woodlands, including two new productive timber projects.

John Anderson, Executive Director of Kier Living said, “Sustainable timber is central to our business, so this just makes good sense. It’s also a chance to make a contribution to the wider green infrastructure of the country”.

The first of these new woodlands comprises 16 acres at Meldon, near Morpeth, in Northumberland, planted in spring 2017. meldon_framed_590Critical funding that enabled the project to proceed was provided by Kier Living through the purchase of carbon credits generated by the woodland.

The principle objective at the site is to produce timber, the best of which will be used in the construction industry and the rest for wood fuel. The project comprises one third Sitka Spruce, the remainder being equal components of oak, alder, silver birch, downy birch, western red cedar and eucalyptus. This woodland will improve the biodiversity and landscape of the area called Lough Hills. It is adjacent to the ancient Nunriding Wood and will connect the priority habitat woodlands to the north and east of the planting area. Finally – the new woodland will improve water quality and moderate flow on the Nun Burn. There is access to the site for walkers.

The second project, planted In January 2017, is a new 30 acre woodland at Lulworth Estate near Wool in Dorset. It lies within the Dorset Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. For this conversion of farmland to permanent woodland to be a viable economic proposition additional finance was again supplied through the purchase of carbon credits by Kier Living and ICAP (now Nex), another of Forest Carbon’s partners. The principle aim of the project is the production of quality timber and the largest component is 24,000 Douglas Fir trees. Douglas fir is in high demand for construction timber because it has an excellent strength to weight ratio, and it is also used extensively for fencing, gates and agricultural buildings.

In addition, 2,500 native broadleaved trees, including oak, beech, lime, wild cherry, maples and rowans, were planted in a broad strip along the side adjacent to the public road to enhance the landscape effect and add bio-diversity and conservation value. Around 10% of the area has been left as a network of open grass rides which will be mown to provide habitat for butterflies and other flora and fauna. The site is bounded on three sides by mature woodland and thus provides valuable linkage for wildlife. A public bridleway runs along the west side of the woodland.

Both of these projects are in the process of being quality assured by Forest Carbon under the UK Government’s Woodland Carbon Code. The Woodland Carbon Code certifies projects to ISO standards, and the certification and planting status of each woodland is publicly verifiable via the Markit Registry. Amongst other things the Code ensures that the woodland would not have been planted without the additional carbon finance and will be sustainably managed for the long term. The schemes also meet the UK Forestry Standard, a benchmark for sustainable forest management.

Forest Carbon and Kier Living are pleased to be involved in increasing sustainable timber supplies in the UK. Globally only 33% of timber used comes from sustainable sources, meaning every tree planted for timber here could one day contribute to protecting old growth forests elsewhere. Planting more productive forests in the UK could also make a significant contribution to the country's balance of payments by reducing imports, as well as supporting jobs in forestry and downstream processing.

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