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Economic Impact of The National Forest Confirmed in a New Study

Friday, 23rd May 2014

A new study by the National Forest Company has confirmed the positive economic impact of the creation of The National Forest and identified substantial potential benefits for the future.

In key respects the economy of The National Forest is ahead of comparable areas and there is scope for substantial economic growth into the future, based around the growing Forest, which has made the area attractive for inward investment. Gross Value Added in the Forest area is expected to reach £5.6bn by 2030, up from £3.3bn in 2011.  The report highlights the role of the visitor economy and the economic value of the woodlands going forward.

It shows that the area is a growing visitor destination, currently employing 4,500 jobs with the potential for another 2,000 by 2020. There were 8 million visitor days in 2012 which could become 10 million by 2024. The report shows that there is scope to extend the visitor experience into a longer season and to increase the numbers of visitors staying overnight.

The report shows that whilst the woodland-based economy is not a major employer, it provides sustainable fuel with economic and environmental value and a range of other products and economic activity. This is set to grow as the woodlands mature and come into management. The market for logs and woodchips will grow and the woodlands provide an environment for skills development, work readiness training and apprenticeships.  The woodlands also provide a setting for leisure and recreation businesses.

The management of the woodlands improves their long-term economic value and the wider landscape, which, the report shows, supports the visitor economy and the attractiveness of the Forest to those relocating.  National Forest local authority areas are now the location of choice for one in ten people relocating to the Midlands from the rest of the UK.

The population has risen in The National Forest alongside the maturing Forest, at a faster rate than regional averages and with a further increase of 17% projected in the report to 2030. This provides economic activity for house-builders and a base for economic activity and income for the Forest area.

Prestigious development has taken place in The National Forest including in 2012 St George’s Park near Burton upon Trent.  Since 2001 there have been more than 30 major inward investment decisions worth more than £1bn into The National Forest and surrounding area. The report found that the economy was becoming more balanced with higher and more adaptable skills, but still retained a strong SME sector. 

The report proposes an investment plan for The National Forest over the next five years which will cross its four Local Enterprise Partnership areas. Focusing on the Forest as a visitor destination and the woodland economy, it will:

·       Promote and develop opportunities for visitors

·       Stimulate the woodfuel and biomass markets

·       Support SMEs in The National Forest

·       Provide training and work readiness programmes based in the Forest.

Commenting on the report, National Forest Company Chief Executive Sophie Churchill said: “This report is the latest in a number over the last ten years to demonstrate the economic impact of The National Forest. With each report we see The National Forest coming of age as an asset to its populations and the wider area.  The next stage is a further programme of investment with businesses and our Local Authority partners and I look forward to that taking shape over the next year. Meanwhile, the National Forest Way long distance walking trail has just opened, another demonstration of how woodlands can become the setting for leisure activity, which in turn stimulates business.”

The report and summary report are available at http://www.nationalforest.org/document/research/ under General Research.