The North East England Timber Transport Group will cover Northumberland, Tyne & Wear and Durham.

The group hopes to bring together local authorities, hauliers, the Forestry Commission, growers, timber users and industry bodies to discuss haulage and highways issues. It will also share best-practice with similar organisations around the UK.

"This is a positive step towards harvesting timber with the minimum impact on roads, the environment and local residents – and will be the first time industry and the councils have sat down together in a proactive manner," said Mr Paterson.

"One of our first tasks is to create an agreed routes map for the region detailing exactly where lorries carrying timber can and should go. This will then go out for public consultation before being adopted by the industry."