The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Forestry Commission have announced funding improvements for forestry schemes to help drive tree-planting rates across the country.

Defra and the Forestry Commission said the changes, mainly affecting the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Countryside Stewardship forestry schemes, aim to support and help farmers and landowners grow more trees.

The key changes will see:

  • Funding for land managers and farmers to increase;
  • An increase in government maintenance payments from 10 years to 15 years;
  • An extended capital window from two to three years. The timeframe for capital works for EWCO will also be extended from two to three years.

Chair of the Forestry Commission, William Worsley, said the UK government wants to make sure planted trees are well managed and resilient against future threats.

“It’s vital that once planted, new woodlands are well looked after. We’ve listened to sector feedback on payment rates and timescales,” he said.

“The changes brought in will give land managers two seasons to complete the planting and give longer term financial support to manage woodlands in the important early years of establishment.  

“This will play an essential part in creating resilient forests and woodlands which improve our natural environment, help meet net zero carbon emissions, provide a sustainable source of home-grown timber and boost people’s health and wellbeing.”

Benefit examples

The changes can be laid out as follows:

  • Maintenance payment rates were previously raised from £300 to £350/ha/year in January 2023;
  • Before these new changes, the rate of £350/ha would have paid a total of £3,500/ha over the 10-year maintenance period;
  • Following these new changes, land managers will now be paid £5,250/ha over the 15-year maintenance period, giving an extra £1,750/ha.

Defra and the Forestry Commission published an example of how a land manager with a 7ha application will benefit from the changes.

Previously, the land manager’s maintenance payments would have been paid £24,500 over 10 years.

With the maintenance rate now being paid for 15 years, for a 7ha application, customers will now receive maintenance payments of £36,750 over 15 years.

This means woodland managers in this position will receive an additional £12,250 to support their woodland.

Defra and the Forestry Commission said the changes follow other recent changes to improve the woodland creation process in response to customer and stakeholder feedback.