PLANS FOR a Forestry Innovation Centre covering the north of England and south of Scotland have been unveiled as part of a major funding package worth almost £400 million.

The Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal – a collaboration between the UK Government, Scottish Government and five local authorities – also includes an initial £10 million (£5 million each from the UK and Scottish Governments) to 'underpin the development of the rural economy' either side of the border.

Chief Executive of Confor, Stuart Goodall, said: "This is a big deal for forestry and fantastic news for the sector on two levels. Firstly, Confor has been heavily involved in discussions with the entire forestry industry to ensure the exciting idea of a Forestry Innovation Centre made it into this document.

"Secondly, the immediate £10 million to support rural economic development and to create a Natural Capital Innovation Zone is a great opportunity for the forestry sector to show how it can deliver multiple and integrated benefits in the Borderlands area."

On the specific Forestry Innovation Centre proposal, he said: "Industry support was crucial in getting plans for the centre into the Heads of Terms and Confor will continue to lead discussions to drive this project forward. This is a really positive time for forestry and wood processing in the Borderlands area."

The Heads of Terms document says: "The forestry and wood sector in the Borderlands is an asset to the region which can deliver substantial low carbon growth and contribute towards sustainable economic development. Forestry and wood processing are a significant employers and contributors to the economic growth of the Borderlands region."

Mr Goodall added: "There is a lot of work ahead to develop plans for the centre, but we have had excellent engagement between Confor members, rural skills providers, public forestry bodies and other stakeholders – and I'm confident we can move forward to develop a plan that focuses on adding value and increasing productivity within our sector to benefit the economy and environment of the Borderlands region."

The Borderlands region comprises five local authority areas – Carlisle City, Cumbria County, Dumfries and Galloway, Northumberland County and the Scottish Borders – and is home to over one million people over a combined geography that comprises 10% of the UK landmass.