Opportunities For Landowners With England Woodland Creation Offer - details announced in the new “England Woodland Creation Offer”, however with the scheme focussing on outcomes as opposed to evidence, caution will be required with the design
Last month the Environment Secretary, George Eustice, launched the England Trees Action Plan (ETAP) setting out the Government’s tree planting targets in response to both the climate and biodiversity emergency and to meet “Net Zero” by 2050. A bold collection of targets was set, including increasing woodland cover in England to 12%, a target of 30,000 hectares per year of new woodland by the end of the current parliament - a trebling of the current woodland creation rate.
Mr Eustice committed £500 million of the £640m Nature for Climate Fund to trees, aiming to fund Woodland Creation Partnerships, an Urban Tree Challenge Fund, Local Authority Treescape Fund as well as the core Woodland Creation Grant.
Sir William Worsley, Chair of the Forestry Commission, further announced changes to the grant offering to support the planting of new woodland, with the full details of the new scheme being announced this week.
Here Mike Dyke, H&H Land & Estates’ Environmental and Woodland Advisor, who works across the North of England gives further feedback:
“With the new announcement today, I expect an Increase in uptake from both large and small landowners with woodland creation aspirations. Whilst the previous scheme was good, especially for larger projects, we have seen many smaller prospective woodland creators who in the past have been put off by the rates of support, with deer fencing in particular, where the grant rate has been considerably lower than the actual delivery cost. This week’s announcement is promising news for those wanting to make a positive change on their land through the creation of woodland, but who may have fallen short of the application thresholds, or were put off by the cap on the capital works or where the public benefits of the project were not recognised.
“It is encouraging to see that there are also some options which were not previously available which have now been included, such as the restoration of stone walls and bracken control. If you plant trees into untreated bracken, the survival rate is very low so many landowners have taken the brunt of this cost themselves, so it is terrific news that further financial support is available for bracken control.”
The England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) is a re-vamp of the existing Woodland Creation grant under Countryside Stewardship, bringing several changes which address many of the barriers faced by previous prospective applicants. These changes include:
- Reduction in the minimum application area, from 3 hectares to 1 hectare
- Reduction in minimum compartment size, from 0.5 hectares to 0.1 hectare
- Reduction in minimum planting compartment width for riparian planting to 10 meters
- Increase in capital grant cap, from £6,800 to £8,500 per hectare.
- Improved rates for individual items, particularly boundary items which bring the rates closer to actual costs.
- New options to support the Creation, including scarification for natural colonisation, mulch mats, dry stone wall repair, badger gates, pedestrian/bridle gates and bracken control.
- A suite of “Additional Contributions” where a project includes specific designs to meet various public services, including nature and species recovery, riparian buffers, reduced flood risk, improved public access, close to settlements, improved water quality.
- Improved cohesion between the Woodland Creation Grants and the Woodland Carbon Code, making the registration process simpler to access private carbon funding.
The (EWCO) is open for applications from 9th June and it is anticipated that it will have a rolling application window. It will provide funding of eligible projects in four areas;
- Fixed payment rates per tree+tube+stake, per metre of fence, per gate, etc. up to a value of £8,500 per hectare with new options including bracken control and mulch mats.
- Woodland infrastructure costs are supported through a 40% contribution towards the cost of the work. This may include access tracks, timber stacking areas, culverts and bridges where the infrastructure is required to support effective establishment.
- Maintenance through a £200 per hectare, per year payment to support costs relating to the replacement of failed trees, weed & pest control, and general maintenance of the plantation for 10 years following planting.
- Additional Contributions of £400 - £2800 per hectare where further design criteria is met.
“I am excited by these improvements to the grant offering and expect that a number of project and schemes which have been on the back burner, or where clients have been undecided, can now proceed as the overall economics of an agreement will be substantially improved. Furthermore, it is expected that any current application under Countryside Stewardship could be “transitioned” onto the England Woodland Creation Offer, potentially attracting the new benefits.”
However there is a lot of detail, and some elements in the new program will require expert input in the design stage to ensure the requirements for the additional contributions are met.”