The Countryside Stewardship (CS) grant scheme is still available to woodland owners, but because money is tight, eligibility is based on scoring. From a woodland perspective, apart from the new focus on Ancient Semi Natural Woodland, SSSIs and other sensitive sites, there are key central objectives:
The CS scheme is expected to continue for the next few years, until the new Environmental Land Management Scheme is introduced, maybe in the mid 2020s.
CS applications for a 5 year scheme can be submitted in an annual window. Applications are competitive, so it is important to decide if it is worth spending the time, and then to submit a good case by having a management plan which achieves the best output for government objectives. This will include deer control, ride creation or management, coppicing, thinning, regeneration felling, disease management etc. It can take a long time to be ready for an application, depending on what you have in place already. Steps may include registering the specific woodland parcels with the Rural Land Registry, which can take a very long time. Application for Planning Grant and then producing the plan can take a few months, depending on complexity, allowing for discussion, adjustments and sometimes statutory consultation.
Although the bureaucracy involved appears very off-putting, there is often a bottom line with woodland owners, who would like to know that their woodlands are being improved in the longer term, but cannot make the case to invest resources in them. In some instances, timber sales may cover overall costs, but in others, grant funding has provided a critical incentive to resuming woodland management.
To discover how any woodland area will score, a prime resource to refer to is the Forestry Commission’s Land Information Search. This will show whether a piece of woodland will score high, medium or low for any of the above aims. A lot of English woodland will have a high basic score simply by being woodland, as opposed to agriculture, recent plantation, etc. But because there is limited funding, even high scoring applications will be competing against others. Larger areas of woodland may have an advantage, since scores are based on area.
grants are available under the CS scheme for planting, management planning, and
improving access to the woodland, eg by putting in tracks. Separate to this, annual woodland maintenance
jobs come under the Multi Annual scheme, where successful applicants will
receive £100 per hectare for a 5 year contract, for the work that owners have decided they would like to do. Part of an application for Multi
Annual funding can also include smaller capital items, such as deer fencing, gates,
control of invasive species etc.
Other woodland grants such as Countryside Productivity, LEADER and Growth funds are available to woodland owners or processors, to invest in forestry equipment and storage.
An approved management plan needs to be in place to access the funding (Planning Grant funding of a minimum of £1000 is available). Management plans that are nearly out of date can be upgraded, including completion of a Plan of Operations, where one does not already exist. This means taking the extra mensuration data needed and calculating the expected volumes to extract.
For more information go to http://www.forestry.gov.uk/countrysidestewardship