The Forestry Commission (FC) has just unveiled its new England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) grant to get more landowners planting more trees.
Woodland creation is an expensive activity with a high up-front cost for trees, protection and labour, an ongoing management commitment, long-delayed timber income and an obligation to permanently retain the land as woodland. So few undertake it at any scale without a grant.
If you’ve been considering planting some woodland on the farm or estate but you’ve been holding off thinking the grants are bound to improve, then now is a good time and this new scheme is well worth considering.
England Woodland Creation Offer
Base payments are better, with additional supplements available on top. The minimum area has also been reduced from three ha to one ha and the agreements now include 10 years of management payments (previously you had to apply for these separately).
Woodland creation under Countryside Stewardship in recent years didn’t cover costs fully – paying 80% of standard costs of the items involved (tree stock, guards, fencing etc.) up to a capped rate of £6,800/ha. Under EWCO, standard costs are paid at 100% up to £8,500/ha. In addition, landowners can get supplementary contributions, if the woodland delivers - through its location, design and species mix - specified public benefits like ‘nature recovery’ (£1,100 - £2,800), reduced flood risk (£500/ha), improved water quality (£400/ha) and improved public access (£2,200/ha).
Depending on the location and design of your woodland, it should be possible in many instances to get towards £10K/ha for woodland creation. With the reduced minimum application area, this starts to look like a more attractive proposition for more people than before.
For those with a current application or agreement for woodland creation under an existing scheme (Countryside Stewardship, the FC Woodland Carbon Fund or HS2 Woodland Fund), it may be possible to transfer to the better payments under EWCO – but only in certain circumstances.
Basically, those who have applied to these schemes but have not got an agreement yet and those with an agreement who have not started work on it, are eligible to transfer to EWCO. If any work has started however, things get more complicated. The Rural Payments Agency will be contacting all who are eligible to transfer by 16 June – but there is an FC Operations Note on the EWCO webpage to explain all.
Looking ahead, Defra’s Environmental Land Management schemes (ELMs) will take over as the main public funding for woodland from 2024. ELMs are still being designed, but elements of the approach used in EWCO, if successful, may influence how woodland fits into the three schemes.
Also, a potentially important line in the England Trees Action Plan launched last month reads: “We are offering more generous payments this Parliament to kick-start planting ahead of the transition to our new Sustainable Farming Incentive, Local Nature Recovery and Landscape Recovery Schemes.” This suggests that government scheme payments wise, this may be as good as things will get. So, the time to plan that new woodland may be now.
Find out more about the scheme
To find out more about the England Woodland Creation Offer visit https://www.gov.uk/guidance/england-woodland-creation-offer