Forestry must be at the heart of a deal to revitalise the economy on both sides of the England/Scotland border, according to a new report, according to the largest manufacturing employer in Northumberland, EGGER.

The Borderlands Growth Deal is currently being jointly championed by Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, and Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth Minister Jake Berry, and covers five local authority areas. Three are in England – Northumberland and Cumbria County Councils and Carlisle City Council – and two are in Scotland – Dumfries and Galloway Council and Scottish Borders Council.

On a recent visit to EGGER's Hexham base, Mr Berry was told in no uncertain terms about the significance of forestry and wood processing in Northern England and Southern Scotland.

Commercial director Bob Livesey said: "EGGER has invested £250 million in its Hexham site in the last decade to produce high-quality and attractive products for homes across the UK – but we need more wood to secure future market demands, investment, growth and jobs.

"As well as the 630 people employed directly, our factory supports around 1800 jobs in the wider community. We need to plant more trees and get the timber to market more quickly, effectively and sensitively."

EGGER has proposed three measures to stimulate the cross-border forestry sector under the Borderlands Growth Deal:

• Create the UK's first Forestry Investment Zone in Northumberland and Cumbria;

• Introduce a Strategic Timber Transport Fund in England to match the one already operating in Scotland;

• Carry out a future skills audit to ensure the industry has the people it needs to ensure future success.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman, who organised Mr Berry’s visit, said: “As the biggest employer in my constituency, EGGER is a very significant business in the economy of the Tyne Valley. It is also a business that recognises its wider responsibility to the local community, to the wider region, and to the whole forestry and wood processing supply chain.

"I’m very pleased that the Minister was able to see the factory and to receive this highly positive and constructive report on how forestry and wood processing can play a major part in the Borderlands Growth Deal.”

Councillor Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “EGGER is a bedrock employer in the county, which also has the largest productive forest planted in England for 30 years – now taking shape at Doddington, North Moor near Wooler. EGGER has recognised the need to ensure long-term confidence in wood supplies – for its own business and for other wood processors across the region. This is an excellent report with some really practical ideas to put forestry and wood processing at the heart of the Borderlands Growth Deal.”