Dr Daniel Ridley-Ellis                            DEF0034


Written evidence submitted by Dan Ridley-Ellis, Edinburgh Napier University

About me

I am an associate professor working in the area of wood properties and timber products since 2003. I mostly work on the home grown resource but I also work at European level in the area of timber for construction.  I also maintain a blog on related topics https://blogs.napier.ac.uk/cwst/


Does the UK Government have an adequate understanding of the future demand for timber, including what tree species should be grown?

The future demand for wood fibre comes from a variety of sources including –

Greater use of timber in construction.  Due to the amount of timber involved cross-laminated timber is important, but the increased volume of light timber frame should not be overlooked – noting that this is not all solid wood but also a lot of engineered wood products such as i-beams and panels made from chip and fibre.  There has been a lot of attention on future demand for solid wood and products like cross-laminated timber, but not enough on the less glamorous engineered wood products.

The importance of wood packaging materials and pallets, fencing and other products which are commonly overlooked as low value, but are vital for many important activities. It must be realised that wood that serves those needs is not a resource that can be used instead for construction timber, without knock on negative effects.

The potential demand for wood fibre for growing markets like clothing fibre, and bio-based plastics, which tends not to be counted, even though the material volume requirements are enormous.

The UK’s current situation is not really one where we can “reduce reliance” on imports. We will do well if we can managed to maintain current levels of reliance.


Does the UK government, working with the devolved administrations, have an effective, joined-up plan with appropriate incentives to increase the production and use of sustainable, domestically grown timber in the UK to reduce its reliance on imports?

There are incentives for the business as usual mainstream commercial conifers, and for native broadleaves, but not enough towards encouraging diversity of species and forest type in the wood value chain. Wood does not automatically become useful or high value – especially from forests that are managed for other priorities. Value chains can adapt with time and information, but there is insufficient preparation for the medium to long term.  This is particularly the case for hardwoods. Additionally some of the messaging around timber value and quality is harmful to public perception of our current domestic timber supply.

Secondary wood from recycling and reuse needs also more recognition as being part of the UK’s wood resource.

The options for home grown structural timber are limited to a small range of species, and is notably lacking for Scots pine [1].

[1] Dan Ridley-Ellis, David Gil-Moreno & Annette M. Harte (2022) Strength grading of timber in the UK and Ireland in 2021, International Wood Products Journal, 13:2, 127-136, DOI: 10.1080/20426445.2022.2050549 https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/20426445.2022.2050549


September 2022