Woodland Grants and Funding in England

The current round of woodland grants was introduced in 2015, under the name of Countryside Stewardship (CS).   This is available to farmers as well as woodland owners, but because money is tight, eligibility is based on scoring.  From a woodland perspective, there are key central objectives:

  • Habitat improvement for biodiversity
  • Managing for priority species
  • Removing conifers and other non-native tree species from Ancient Woodland
  • Implementing Continuous Cover Forestry, where this will reduce the impact of clear felling on water quality in acid sensitive catchment areas

Of course, managing woodland can achieve many other objectives apart from these.  From planning, to arranging the work and then to watching the woodland develop, management can take on a personal, creative and ultimately very satisfying aspect.

Bureaucracy

CS multi annual funding applications can be submitted once a year, with the window closing for 2017 on the 5th of May.  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, 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.  

Scoring to achieve woodland grants

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.

Types of grant

Capital based 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.  

Management plan

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


Contact the Forestry Office for help with management planning and ultimate Countryside Stewardship grant applications.