Woodland restoration and tree planting© Global Warming Images /REX/Shutterstock

Farmers are being urged to start preparing their applications for grant support for new woodlands ahead of the opening of the Woodland Creation Grant (WCG) scheme early in the new year.

The WCG is a capital grant scheme designed to encourage farmers and land managers to plant woodland that improves biodiversity or helps to reduce the risk of flooding and diffuse pollution.

The scheme, which is part of Countryside Stewardship, opens for applications on 2 January 2018.

See also: Academy: Manage your woodland

The guidance notes and the application forms have been released early to give landowners an opportunity to plan ahead.

Under the scheme, farmers can apply for up to £6,800/ha to help pay for trees and the installation of associated guards and fencing to protect them.

Alongside the WCG, landowners can also apply for the Woodland Creation Planning Grant, designed to contribute towards the costs of gathering all the information and analysis required in order to make an application.

They also have the opportunity to apply for annual maintenance payments of £200/ha for 10 years.

Woodland Carbon Fund

Alternatively, farmers can also apply to the Woodland Carbon Fund (WCF) – a scheme designed to encourage large-scale woodland planting that helps the government to meet carbon reduction targets.

Under the WCF, payments of up to £6,800/ha are available for proposed woodlands in what are defined as the “standard” areas.

But payments can rise to £8,500/ha in places that have been designated as a priority area – as long as the landowner is willing to allow permissive access to the public.

See also: Woodland and forestry could provide important income stream

Richard Greenhous, forest services director for the Forestry Commission, said: “We have made guidance available much earlier this year and brought in a number of improvements to the scheme – and our Forestry Commission teams are on hand to provide advice and support throughout the process.

“I would encourage landowners to talk to their local woodland officer and start planning now before the scheme opens for applications to be submitted in January.”