Forestry Commission relaxes rules for woodland planning grant

The Forestry Commission has relaxed the rules for the Woodland Creation Planning Grant (WCPG) to encourage more tree planting, according to land and property specialists Strutt & Parker.

The WCPG is a two-stage process, with £1,000 available initially to cover the costs of a desk-based exercise to identify any constraints and opportunities that may affect any proposed planting.

If the Forestry Commission believes there is potential for woodland creation to take place on the site, landowners can then apply for a stage 2 payment of £150/ha, minus the £1,000 offered at stage 1, to gather further data and produce a UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) compliant woodland creation plan.

A UK Forestry Standard compliant plan can then be used to support any applications for funding to plant and maintain trees, through schemes like the Woodland Carbon Fund, Countryside Stewardship and HS2 Woodland Fund.

“The WCPG is available to farmers and landowners with an interest in planting new woodland, to help cover the costs of producing an appropriate woodland creation design plan,” explained George Stone, graduate surveyor in the Stamford Office.

“The biggest change is a reduction in the minimum area of trees that need to be planted –from 10ha to 5ha – with some other amendments around the requirements for choosing tree species. It is hoped that this will encourage more farmers and landowners to consider woodland creation, which is important if the government is to meet its targets on tree planting to address climate change.”

According to recent figures from Forest Research, tree planting in England has increased over the past 12 months with 2,330ha of new woodland created in 2020, compared with 1,400ha in 2019.

However, this is still below the rate needed for the government to reach its manifesto commitment to plant 30,000ha per annum across the UK by 2025. The total area of new planting in the UK in 2019-20 was 13,460 ha.

Applications can be made to the WCPG all year round and the total amount of funding is capped at £30,000 per project.

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