Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Mr R C Williams-Ellis OBE (K 9)

  It was only perchance I was shown a copy of this press notice by "Celtic Dimensions" with no Forestry Connection. On contact with H Q Timber Growers, Edinburgh and University Forestry School, Bangor, neither were aware of this inquiry.

  I attach a paper of more general comment, but I think my own personal experience over 52 years developing the only Post-War vertically integrated forest holding in Wales.

  1.  Returning from Far East War Service I made my commitment to Forestry, inspired by the All Party supported 1948 Policy:—The Strategic Reserve; Forestry Commission expansion; Private Woodlands Dedication Schemes, plus Grants plus special Capital and Income Tax (Sch.D) reliefs attracting outside/City investment.

  2.  From 2 ha (P.1926) outstanding Sitka Spruce, 195 ha. were planted by 1973 including purchase of over 150 ha adjoining land financed from the net profits of a successful Forestry Nursery (1948-73) under Schedule B as my Retirement Pension Fund of Tax free Capital Reserve.

  3.  Opening of Fencing Sawmills in 1988 was forced by Shotton UPM backed by Deeside Development Grants failing to offer an opening 1984 a price to cover felling and haulage costs. (Prior closure 1979 Bowaters Pulp price giving c £1 per ton margin allowed vital thinning P50/60 Woodland).

  4.  Glasfryn Woods lie entirely on Grade 5 bogland peats overlying impervious boulder clay spring-bearing sub-soils, making Sitka Spruce dominant choice. Sited on the Llyn Peninsula (five miles across) 4-600 feet O.D. with a top Wind Class 5-6 inevitably with delayed thinning every one of the 65 ex-Dedication sub-Compartments was holed by windthrow and stem snap by the Christmas Eve hurricane 1996. Windthrow is now constant.

  5.  Glasfryn Woodland Grants on 195 ha since 1948 total under £25,000 for all Planing and re-stocking, plus Dedication Grants till 1995, plus in 1996 Forest Track Challenge Funding of £10,000. This extended Forest roading of nearly five miles since 1958 by some 400 metres.

  6.  Glasfryn Woodland of 195 ha are sited on land too poor to support an Environmentally Sensitive Area (Llyn Peninsula) within the Severely Disadvantaged Less Favoured Area Hill Livestock Holding backed by CAP, HLCA Agricultural Grants.

  7.  By comparison a Hill Livestock Holding of 200 ha with optimum stocking with right mix of better land as calculated by ADAS, (1996) employing Farmer and One worker could qualify for upto £60,000 annually, plus additional grants for renovation of traditional buildings and field boundaries.

  8.  Glasfryn Forest Holding by comparison employs 15 full time staff. Being unable to finance any re-stocking of windthrown areas, no woodland grants since 1996. (Highest employment on any Holding 200 ha in Wales.)

  9.  Rural Wales Objective 5b 1994-99 EU Grant was secured which helped development of the Sawmill. As neither the Forestry Commission nor the Welsh Office Agricultural Department (unlike MAFF in England) were unable to Match Fund, and WDA refused Grant as a Forestry project many parts of the Scheme were cut. We only secured the County Council Drive Grant for increasing employment plus help for the Welsh Office Grant of Last Resort.

  10.  As a forest holding I cannot qualify for the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme available to farmer taking land out surplus food production with Grants and Compensation running for broadleaves upto over £5,000 per ha.

  11.  Should I wish to expand I would have to buy adjoining Grade 5 land with its SDLFA/ESA/CAP Grants added value.

  12.  Glasfryn Planting/Restocking Costs. On Grade 5 bogland current costs:

Year 1-5Preparation (clearance, fencing); Drainage, Dolloping; Plants, Planting; Beating up, weeding and aftercare £2,000 / ha
Year 5-25Maintenance and Management 2 man day per year £100. £2,000
Outlay to earliest break even from thinnings £4,000 / ha
Less Present conifer PlantingGrant £700 / ha
or Re-stocking Grant £325 / ha

  13.  1958  Following partial windthrow I sold part of the P.1926 Sitka Spruce stand, which included some standing sawlog. Price movements as follows.

Saw logs price increase from 1958 (standing) £7 to £16 over 2 times
Agricultural Wage Minimums since 1958 have risen over 30 times
Daily Newspapers, now with part re-cycled paper pulp over 50 times

  14.  I was the only local buyer of the 800 ha Llyn Forest put up for sale by the Forest Enterprise, at one time employing over 100, as uneconomic and too isolated from timber mills 80-120 miles on the Welsh Border. Woods were bought by Timber Merchants and Tilhill Economic Forestry (Shotton) for "rollover Relief" etc clients.

  15.  My application for the Long Terms Plan Grant has been turned down for "Lack of public access and no monument of interest to visit!"

11 November 2000

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