THE Forestry Commission has opened a new tree-planting grant scheme aimed at providing greater financial incentives for landowners and farmers to plant and manage trees.

The England Woodland Creation Offer is now open to applications, with £15.9 million available in its first year.

The new grant scheme intends to give greater recognition of the public and environmental benefits that woodlands bring by providing additional incentives to ensure the right tree is planted in the right place, and for the right reason.

It will support the creation of a range of woodland types and sizes, including along rivers to improve the water environment; through natural colonisation where woodlands are created through natural processes (trees growing from seeds that fall and germinate there); and where their location and design will provide public benefits including greater access.

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The grant can cover 100 per cent of eligible standard capital costs of woodland creation, meaning costs are covered for buying and planting the trees, and then maintaining them for 10 years. Additional financial contributions are available for well-designed woodland that provide public and wider environmental benefits.

Additional contributions will be available for:

  • 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 reducing pollutants through land use change by intercepting pollution and sediment before it reaches watercourses.

The England Woodland Creation Offer aims to allow farmers to make the most of green finance opportunities. For example, applicants will be supported to register their planting under the Woodland Carbon Code wherever eligible, to allow the future sale of high-quality woodland carbon credits to private buyers.

The Government intends to maximise private investment in new woodlands and said it will regularly review its approach to additional contributions.

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Forestry Commission chair, Sir William Worsley, commented: “This exciting new grant offer is flexible to allow landowners to create a woodland that meets their own objectives. From planting a small one-hectare block, a strip of trees along rivers to reduce flood risk, to large mixed woodlands. This improved grant gives everyone the opportunity to see woodland creation as a financially and environmentally rewarding option. This will help with our journey to reach net zero by 2050.”

Forestry minister Lord Goldsmith said: “Trees are at the heart of Government’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, help bend the curve of biodiversity loss and better connect people with nature as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To respond to the climate emergency, we need farmers and landowners to plant trees, and this new grant will provide the financial and environmental incentives needed to make this happen.”

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The announcement has been welcomed by forest industry body Confor. Caroline Ayre, England national manager, commented: “Ambitious targets for tree planting have been set and society’s insatiable demand for wood products, from timber to clothing and paper, means that, more than ever, we need purposeful, well designed and managed productive new woodland. Woodland that will help to sustain and grow resilient rural businesses and diverse landscapes.

“We look forward to working with the Forestry Commission to deliver England’s tree-planting programme through the England Woodland Creation Offer, to ensure that we allow land managers and farmers to create a legacy, not a liability, for future generations.”

Apply for the England Woodland Creation Offer here.

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