Forestry Journal:

This piece is an extract from our Forestry Features newsletter, which is emailed out at 4PM every Wednesday with a round-up of the week's top stories. 

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RARELY does it happen that the Forestry Commission (FC) makes an announcement and the reaction to it is almost universally a positive one.

But that's exactly what appears to be the case in the wake of recent changes to the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Countryside Stewardship (CS) schemes

Rather than getting out the pitchforks and marching towards Defra HQ, there has generally been acceptance that alterations to the funds are welcome ones. So what are they? 

Ministers announced earlier this month that maintenance payments will now cover a 15-year period (up from 10) and provide more cash per hectare. Land managers will be paid £5,250 per ha over the timeframe, giving an extra £1,750 per ha than the previous rate. 


An extended Capital Window from two to three years has also been confirmed to ensure farmers have two whole planting seasons to deliver their scheme, regardless of the start date of their agreement.

All in all, this sounds pretty positive, and a quick dip in the forestry waters suggests many agree. 

"Confor is very encouraged by this latest announcement on funding improvements for new planting in England," said John Bruce, Confor's national manager for England. "EWCO is perhaps the most generous new planting grant offer that has been made available in England. 

Forestry Journal: John Bruce, Confor National Manager for EnglandJohn Bruce, Confor National Manager for England (Image: FJ/Jack Haugh)

"The extension of capital payments from two to three years will give that guaranteed two-year establishment window to take anxiety out of the process, giving more confidence and certainty." 

However, John stressed that he would still like to see more conifers being planted to secure future timber supply – and thought elements within EWCO still restrict this.

So a positive reaction, but with an important caveat. Which is about as good as the FC (and any other forestry body) could ever hope for.