The Forestry Commission has unveiled details of the new tree planting grant scheme – the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) – which aims to to encourage more farmers and land managers to plant trees.
The grant, backed by almost £16m of funding in its first year, is part of the government’s strategy to treble tree planting rates in England by the end of the current Parliament.
There are a number of differences from previous grant schemes which the government is hoping will make it more attractive to landowners.
Key points of the scheme are as follows:
1. The scheme will support small-scale and large-scale woodland creation
The England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) replaces the Woodland Carbon Fund, which was the main funding scheme for larger scale planting.
The minimum size of woodland under the Woodland Carbon Fund was 10 hectares, but under the EWCO there is a minimum woodland size of 1 hectare per application, with a minimum threshold of 0.1 hectare per block.
Funding will predominantly be focused on the creation of native broadleaf woodlands at a large scale, but Defra says it will also support well-designed majority conifer and mixed woodlands.
Applications can be made year round.
2. The payments are more generous than under the Woodland Carbon Fund
The scheme will pay up to £8,500/ha to cover up to 100% of the costs of planting and establishing a new woodland. Previously payments were capped at £6,800/ha for the majority of schemes, with only projects in priority areas attracting the higher level of funding.
Once the capital works are complete, annual maintenance payments of £200/ha are available for 10 years.
3. Top-up payments are on offer for the provision of public goods
Additional funding is available for woodland that provides public and wider environmental benefits. This is consistent with the government’s push towards ‘public money for public goods’, with woodland owners able to benefit from the ecosystem services that their woodlands provide.
Additional payments available are as follows:
• nature and species recovery – between £1,100/ha to £2,800/ha available where woodland creation will help woodland-dependent priority species to recover;
• tree planting near watercourses and rivers (riparian buffers) – £1,600/ha available where the creation of native broadleaved woodland along water courses will improve river habitats;
• reduced flood risk – £500/ha available where woodland creation can help reduce the risk of flooding;
• improved public access – £2,200/ha available where woodland creation will provide long-term permissive access to the public to enjoy
• close to settlements – £500/ha available where woodland creation will provide social and environmental benefits by being close to people;
• improved water quality – £400/ha available for woodlands that clean water by intercepting pollution and sediment before it reaches watercourses.
4. Landowners will also be able to sell the carbon credits
The EWCO has be designed to allow farmers to also access green finance opportunities.
Applicants will be supported to register their planting under the Woodland Carbon Code, to allow the future sale of woodland carbon credits to private buyers.
5. It is an interim grant scheme only
It is hoped that the ECWO will support the creation of more than 10,000 hectares of new woodland over its lifetime. However, Defra has already said that its intention is to roll it into the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme after 2024.
For more information about the scheme and how woodland creation might benefit your farm or estate, contact a member of Strutt & Parker’s Land Management team.
Our specialist forestry team, John Clegg & Co, is also available to advise on woodland creation at a commercial scale and on forestry as a long-term investment.