Tree planting grant uplift for English growers

Farmers and landowners participating in the England Woodland Creation Offer (Ewco) are to receive extra funding for so-called “additional contributions”, which go beyond the basic grant for planting more trees.

The Ewco scheme was introduced in June 2021 with the aim of planting some 10,000ha of new woodland a year by 2024, to get the government closer to its targets.

While initial uptake was slow – less than 1,000ha in the first two years – Defra insists there is a “strong pipeline” of Ewco applications for 2024/25.

See also: Why agroforestry is adding value on arable farms

A basic grant is available, paying £10,200/ha to cover the cost of planting trees, with the Forestry Commission and Defra targeting more marginal land. This payment rate is not changing.

But there is a range of additional measures to encourage woodland creation where it can deliver the most benefits, and these payment rates are going up with immediate effect. They are:

  • £3,700/ha for areas that include recreation and public access (up 68%)
  • £600/ha for tree planting close to urban settlements (up 20%)
  • £2,500/ha for plantings near watercourses (up 56%)
  • £500/ha for plantations that help improve water quality (up 25%)
  • £1,000/ha for trees that help reduce flooding (up 100%)
  • £1,100-£2,800/ha for plantings that aid species recovery (no change).

While there is no change for trees that aid species recovery, a new “premium” rate of £3,300/ha is being introduced to encourage plantings or “natural colonisation” next to ancient woodland.

Defra is also offering a further £1,100/ha as a “low sensitivity land payment”, to encourage uptake of Ewco on more marginal land.

And the annual maintenance payment for new plantations is also going up, from £350/ha to £400/ha for 15 years, taking effect immediately.

Most of the “additional contribution” measures can be stacked, so that the new maximum grant for someone undertaking all of the above comes to £12,700/ha – up 59%.

This is over and above the basic £10,200/ha standard grant for tree planting.

Forestry Commission chief executive Richard Stanford said: “There has never been a better time for farmers and land managers to plant and grow more trees.

“In addition to encouraging woodland creation away from most productive land, it is important to remember that trees and woodlands can support farming objectives – for instance, providing shade and shelter, improving productivity through healthy soil and water, reducing erosion and nutrient loss from surface run-off, or improving drought and flood resilience.”

The total Ewco budget for 2024/25 will come to about £25m – up from just shy of £18m currently – and it is expected around two thirds will be for the standard planting grant, with the other third destined for additional contributions. 

See more