Event to take hard look at exploiting timber’s resurgence

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A MAJOR event will be held this month in a bid to encourage local builders and architects to use hardwoods and non-spruce species grown in the Borders.

It follows the revelation in a specially-commissioned report that there is currently an estimated 6,000 hectares of unexploited broadleaf and non-spruce timber resources in the region.

The results of the study, carried out by Buccleuch Woodlands Enterprises Ltd, will be revealed in full at a seminar, entitled Building and Designing with Durable Scottish Borders Timber, at the Galashiels campus of Heriot-Watt University on Tuesday, May 17, from 9am till 5pm.

The event has been organised, like the research, by the Scottish Borders Woodland Strategy (SBWS) Partnership, which has representatives from Scottish Borders Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Enterprise, the Forestry Comission and Borders Forest Trust.

The initiative, supported by EU funding, seeks to make the most of new market opportunities for locally grown hardwoods, such as oak, beech and ash, and non-spruce conifers, the most common of which is larch.

“There are new markets for wood fuel and, crucially, a resurgence in the use of timber for construction which can provide markets for higher value housing materials such as timber cladding and flooring,” said Jim Knight, SBC’s principal landscape officer, who will welcome delegates to the Galashiels event. “These niche markets can provide scope for new Borders-based businesses,” he added.

The introduction to the Buccleuch Woodlands report states: “The forestry sector in the Borders ... has significant potential for growth.

“Local initiatives, as exemplified by the Woodschool at Ancrum, have successfully built new businesses in furniture design and production by creating value for hardwood resources that were previously left as waste.

“Developments in new timber-related products and technologies for both hardwood and non-spruce softwood, together with the close proximity to markets in Edinburgh and the north of England, are highlighting further opportunities for creating new value for local timber.

“The non-spruce resource has a reasonable spread of age classes in most species [larch, Douglas fir, Scots pine etc.] indicating that a sustainable yield may be possible.”

Most of the timber resource reported in the study, based on the return of 37 questionnaires from forest owners and managers of diverse Borders woodland, can be physically worked if the econonic payback is deemed acceptable, according to the report.

Mr Knight said the seminar would “look at the inspirational work taking place in other parts of Scotland that made exemplary use of Scottish-grown timber.”

Councillor Vicky Davidson, SBC’s executive member of economic development, told TheSouthern: “We’re keen to make the best use of all our natural resources here in the Borders and we are seeing a resurgence nationally in the use of timber for construction.

“There are exciting opportunities to develop new jobs and businesses to meet that new demand. I am delighted to hear about the seminar and I look forward optimistically to future developments in the use of local timber.”

The morning session of the seminar will include presentations by Buccleuch Woodlands, timber building specialists The Gaia Group, timber producer BSW International and architect Neil Sutherland.

After lunch, delegates will be taken to Jedburgh for a tour of the Real Wood studios in Jedburgh.

For further information on the event, contact Sarah Mathieson at sarah@vantageevents.co.uk or call 01896 800720.