Woodland creation payments increase to reach net zero

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Increases to England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) payments have been announced by Defra and the Forestry Commission to push tree planting across the country.

Farmers and land managers will now get up to £11,600 per hectare (a 45% increase) from additional contributions for the benefits delivered by woodlands they create.

This increases to £12,700 in stackable payments if the land is also eligible for the Low Sensitivity Land Payment. Standard costs payments will remain at up to £10,200 per hectare.

Changes are effective immediately and offer farmers and land managers tailored tree-planting incentives to create woodland where best suited, alongside protecting farmland for food production.

A new payment to encourage EWCO applications on low sensitivity land has also been introduced, avoiding land most suitable for food production. When planting on low sensitivity land you can now receive £1,100 per hectare.

See also: New natural capital category for RASE awards

The increases are part of the government’s plan to reach net zero by 2050, and come with other measures, such as contributions for riparian buffers, flood mitigation and access.

A “Nature Recovery – Premium” payment option of £3,300 per hectare has been added to encourage the natural colonisation of biodiversity, flood risk management payments have doubled to £1,000 per hectare, and recreational access have increased to £3,700.

Annual maintenance payments have also been raised from £350 to £400 per hectare, per year, for 15 years – recognising that caring for new trees is vital if new woodlands are to flourish.

Forestry Commission Chief Executive Richard Stanford said: “In addition to encouraging woodland creation away from most productive land, it is important to remember that trees and woodlands can support farming objectives.

“For instance, providing shade and shelter, improving productivity through healthy soil and water, reducing erosion and nutrient loss from surface run-off, or improving drought and flood resilience.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow also said that the changes were part of the government’s commitments to food security, as the changes come alongside the launch of the Woodland Creation Fast Track.

This allows the Forestry Commission to process EWCO applications with at least 90% of land located on low sensitivity land, within 12 weeks if the application is complete.

More information on the EWCO payments can be found here.

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