A favourable exchange rate and continental price rises are pushing demand for British grown oak and other hardwoods, according to Tom Barnes, Managing Director of the family owned Vastern Timber sawmill in Wootton Bassett.

“We are noticing a distinct increase in demand for British Oak, particularly beams, because the Euro exchange rate is working against imports. Also, the French have raised prices for their own oak as demand has picked up across Europe. This has made British oak much more competitive, which is great news for the UK timber industry and the communities it supports. It’s also good news for our native forests and woods, and for the environment, as the UK construction and manufacturing industries are specifying more locally grown wood.”

Vastern Timber has enjoyed several years of sustained organic growth thanks to the growing demand for British timber, and the company has also developed new products that use previously underused species. In 2015 Vastern Timber’s business was up 12% on the previous year, and this year is up 10% again. The vast majority of demand is for British grown timber.

“Continental timber prices have been held artificially low for several years due to poor demand across mainland Europe, but the conditions are now right for a large increase,” continues Tom Barnes. “There is still a very strong demand for oak from China, although the French have tried to legislate to stop so much oak going to China because French sawmills complain they can’t enough raw wood. This is all playing into the hands of the UK timber industry.

“British timber has suffered in the face of imports for a long time, and yet it has so much to offer in terms of aesthetic and performance benefits. With imported timber becoming less competitive we are sure architects, specifiers and manufacturers who use wood will become more familiar with these benefits, leaving the UK industry in a much better shape.”

Early in 2016 Vastern Timber launched Brimstone –the first commercially available thermally modified British timber product range, offering specifiers and designers all the benefits of thermal modification, but with the superior sustainability credentials of locally grown wood.

Brimstone was very well received when we officially launched it to the industry at Ecobuild in March. People were obviously impressed with the product and the sustainability benefits, and we have had a great deal of attention from the architectural and self-build communities. Clearly the combination of superior performance, competitive pricing and local sourcing has struck a chord. This doesn’t come as a surprise as provenance and sustainability continues to be important issues for specifiers.”