So for TTJ 2004 is a wrap, with this being our last edition of the year (although I hasten to add, in case our publisher spots this, that we will still be adding news stories to www. into next week).

According to our feedback from across the trade, the past 12 months have been fair to pretty good for the timber sector. Sales, it seems, have been driven by a mix of continuing strong demand from private house building, RMI and public capital projects.

According to some sources, business in recent months has been tougher. “It’s not that we’re any less busy,” said one merchant, “but we do seem to be having to work harder for each sale.”

Confidence seems to have been dented by the upward trend in interest rates and last week the Construction Products Association warned that the chancellor’s decision to relax “ring fencing” on local authority spending may lead to a diversion of cash away from capital programmes.

Having said that, any tightening of the market is clearly not deterring investment. Recently we’ve covered a wide range of spending in the industry and this week we report on major developments at SCA and Forest Garden.

And there have been other positives in 2004 which the industry will hopefully be able to build on in 2005. One has been the continuing growth in sales and production capacity in the timber frame sector. Suppliers of timber flooring and decking also report healthy sales and the British Woodworking Federation maintains that timber windows are still recovering market share.

Growing interest from the government in the development of forestry and timber industries as part of its “sustainable development” strategy also bodes well for the future – and this week environment minister Elliot Morley was presented with a copy of the Timber Trade Federation‘s new Responsible Purchasing Policy by president John Tong .

So here’s trusting that all the positive signs bear fruit and deliver a prosperous new year for the timber trade.