The new UK Government grant scheme launched last year for farmers and landowners looking to plant commercial woodlands closes this month.
This pilot scheme will only be open for applications until the middle of February and offers landowners a grant of £150/ha, to create a sustainable forest design plan for a new woodland over 30ha in size – of which 70% should be productive woodland.
Administered by the Forestry Commission as part of DEFRA’s £1m forestry innovation fund, the cash will support landowners across the North of England looking to diversify.
Speaking in the Newcastle Journal, Simon Hart, general manager at EGGER Forest Management, welcomed the Forestry Commission’s pilot scheme and said: “This is fantastic news, and could make a real difference to someone struggling to get a decent financial return on the likes of poor-quality upland areas unsuitable for productive farming.
“Many landowners we have spoken to are interested in the concept of planting multi-purpose woodlands and can see there are attractive grants towards the cost of planting. But they have been put off by the bureaucracy and cost involved in the preparation of the detailed planting proposals and impact assessments that are required.
“Thanks to this new grant, on a 50ha scheme for example the planning grant would be £7,500 and now this financial barrier has been removed we expect to see a number of new schemes coming forward. But applications have to be submitted before the middle of February so there is no time to spare.”
DEFRA’s Woodland Creation Planning Grant scheme is designed to support the preparation of plans for multi-purpose woodlands in England with a significant productive component – but which take into account the impact on the natural environment, water, the historic environment and local stakeholders.
Proposed sites need to be at least 30 hectares in area and show potential to benefit the forestry sector in the long-term through the provision of timber or other wood products.
“Previous barriers to tree planting have had a huge impact right across the North of the UK,” added Simon. “In recent months we had the Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan highlight the positive impact that trees can have in alleviating flooding, and politicians of every party have backed the need to plant more trees and safeguard the thousands of jobs, and potential new jobs, in timber-related industries in and around Kielder Forest.
“Last year, the Roots to Prosperity blueprint was launched with support from Government, the Forestry Commission, the North East LEP and Northumberland, Cumbria, Durham and North Yorkshire County Councils as well as industry bodies and businesses in the forestry sector. This identified the need for 20,000 hectares of new planting across the north over the next ten years.
“I have met with Forestry Minister Rory Stewart on a number of occasions recently and highlighted the need for Government to remove some of the obstacles that are preventing farmers and landowners from taking advantage of diversification and revenue-generating opportunities.
“He told me then that he firmly believed forestry had much to offer in terms of environmental, social and economic benefits and that Government was committed to working with the private sector to increase the amount of tree planting. I’m delighted to report that on the evidence of this new grant scheme it seems that Whitehall was listening.”