Case Study – Delivering Confor’s tree planting campaign

Challenge: Tree planting had fallen to a record low in England, despite one large new forest being planted in Northumberland in 2018/19. The county was identified as the best area for new large-scale productive tree planting, but nothing was happening on the ground, with a lack of political leadership and no coordinated approach.

Solution: Public Affairs Co-op worked with client Confor (the forestry and wood trade body) to organise the Superwood conference in Newcastle in December 2018. All the people needed to make new planting happen, including the leader of Northumberland County Council, a regional Euro MP, the forestry industry, wood processing businesses, architects and environmental charities, attended.

Result: Six conference speakers signed a letter to the UK Forestry Minister, calling for new planting. The Minister (David Rutley MP) replied positively, asking Confor to propose actions to drive planting forward and agreeing to visit Northumberland in July 2019. Public Affairs Co-op arranged the visit and Mr Rutley (and civil servants) recognised the huge planting potential in the area.

Impact: Mr Rutley left his job in July 2019, but PAC quickly arranged for Confor CEO Stuart Goodall to meet his successor, Zac Goldsmith MP, who announced in September 2019 plans for a new Northumberland Forest. This included an initial one million trees to be planted by 2024 and potentially tens of millions more through a regional forest partnership, with Confor taking a prominent role. Forestry England announced a significant land purchase in April 2020, signalling a desire to deliver the promised planting.

Testimonial: Confor benefited from the expertise provided by PAC in public affairs, event organisation and media to effect a step change in understanding and attitude amongst politicians and stakeholders around tree planting and to engender a sense of urgency in Northumberland that led to the announcement of a new Forest and Partnership.

Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive,
Confor: Promoting Forestry and Wood