Tree health pilot updated to improve farmer and landowner support

The tree health pilot provides farmers and land managers with grants to reduce the impacts of tree pests and diseases
The tree health pilot provides farmers and land managers with grants to reduce the impacts of tree pests and diseases

Defra's tree health pilot is being updated to improve the support available to farmers and land managers dealing with tree pest and disease issues.

The pilot, running between 2021 and 2024, provides land managers with grants and advice to reduce the impacts of tree pests and diseases.

The scheme is currently available in London, the South East, the North West and the West Midlands.

Following its first year, in which more than 80 expressions of interest were received, Defra and the Forestry Commission have evaluated farmer feedback and made changes to the scheme.

These include simplifying the payments process, introducing higher payment rates, implementing a new advice package, and improving guidance.

Payment rates for standard capital cost items - which are one-off projects such as installing deer fencing and tree shelters – will also increase.

Maintenance rates, which help ensure newly planted trees are growing healthily, will increase from £300 to £350 per hectare per year for trees planted in woodland.

And to help cover coordination costs for group applications, the fee paid to the group facilitator will rise to £24 per hour.

Chief plant health officer, Nicola Spence said: "This pilot supports land managers to deal quickly and effectively with tree health issues.

"By funding innovative methods to fell and restock diseased trees, it ensures a comprehensive and targeted approach to better protecting our trees.

"We have been able to gather meaningful feedback for the design of our future Tree Health Scheme, with a greater focus on tailoring support to land managers where most needed."

The overall payments process has been revamped to speed up application and payment processes when responding to tree health issues.

Grant holders will now be able to apply using a single quote and volume estimate for felling and infrastructure improvements, rather than being required to obtain multiple quotes in advance of any activity.

The pilot covers five tree types, including ash affected by ash dieback, oak trees infested with Oak Processionary Moth, and sweet chestnut infected by sweet chestnut blight.