Woodland creation scheme moves to rolling application window

Farmers in England can now sign up to the Woodland Grant Creation Scheme (WGCS) all-year round.

The move is designed to attract more applications and ties in with the government’s plans to increase the amount of woodland cover.

Its goals include planting 11m trees by 2020 and having 12% woodland cover by 2060.

See also: NSA and Woodland Trust unite to give tree planting advice to farmers

The WGCS is a capital grant scheme that falls under the umbrella of Countryside Stewardship and provides payments of up to £6,800/ha to establish new woodland.

The government hopes that removing the old time-limited application window will encourage more projects to come forward, as applicants will be able to prepare them at their own convenience.

Under the scheme, applicants can apply for one-off payments to fund trees, associated protection items, including fencing and spiral guards, and support towards any infrastructure needed to help the establishment of new woodland.

Maintenance money

Once the woodland has been planted, farmers can apply for a separate multi-year grant worth £200/ha for a 10-year period to maintain it.

This support is called the Woodland Creation Maintenance Grant and is part of the Countryside Stewardship Higher Tier scheme.

Who can apply?

The minimum project size is generally 3ha, with a minimum individual block size of 0.5ha.

However, smaller projects will be considered if the planting is designed to improve water quality and help with flood prevention.

The scheme is competitive so all applications will be scored to decide whether it should get the go-ahead.

The highest scores will be given to applications that cover a large geographical area or those that have the greatest positive impact on biodiversity, water quality, flood prevention and climate change.

The majority of any new woodland planted needs to be native species.

‘Generous support’

Richard Greenhous, Forestry Commission director of forest services, said: “By making it easier to apply for generous grant support we are ensuring that we deliver on the government’s and the forestry sector’s ambitions to plant millions more trees across the country.

“We look forward to hearing from applicants who want to reap the economic, environmental and social benefits of sustainable woodland creation.”