Woodland Creation Planning Grant eases rules for farmers

The total amount of grant funding is capped at £30,000 per project
The total amount of grant funding is capped at £30,000 per project

Farmers in England will now find it easier to get financial support for planting new areas of woodland after the Forestry Commission relaxed its rules.

The Woodland Creation Planning Grant (WCPG) has been eased to encourage more tree planting, according to land specialists Strutt & Parker.

The WCPG is available to farmers with an interest in planting new woodland, to help cover the costs of producing an appropriate woodland creation design plan.

George Stone, of Strutt & Parker, said the biggest change was a reduction in the minimum area of trees that needed to be planted – from 10ha to 5ha.

He said: "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.”

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.

If specialist survey work is required at stage 2, such as an archaeological survey, then supplementary payments may be available to cover these additional costs.

Mr Stone added: "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."

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.