England on the crest of a new wave of tree planting
3 June 2016
England could be on the verge of a new tree planting boom after a forestry innovation fund launched by a Government minister at a Confor event received applications to plant more than 1000 hectares of new woodland.
Rory Stewart MP launched the £1 million Forestry Innovation Fund at Modern Forestry: Unleashing the Rural Potential at Westminster last November.
Now, Forestry Commission figures have revealed a very strong response to the fund, which encourages schemes that will promote the growth of the forest industry in their region and have the support of their Local Enterprise Partnership.
The Woodland Creation Planning Grant (WCPG) is financed by the fund, to address common complaints that significant upfront costs are holding back potential planting schemes.
The WCPG pilot ran from December 2015 to February 2016. Forestry Commission England received 11 applications, offering grants to all applicants and 10 of these offers are being taken forward - relating to proposals for a total of 1,064 hectares of new productive woodland and ranging from 33 to 339 hectares in area.
Stuart Goodall, Chief Executive of Confor, said: “This is excellent news, but it is vital that these schemes move to rapid approval.
“If this scheme works as both we and Government hope, then it can act as a catalyst to drive up new planting in England, which has been disappointingly low in recent years.”
Mr Goodall, who received confirmation of the £1 million fund in a letter from Chancellor George Osborne ahead of last November’s Westminster conference, added: “This scheme shows that a relatively modest sum of money can unlock significant new planting schemes and we look forward to further innovative approaches by the UK Government.”
Confor’s recently expressed disappointment that only 564 hectares of new woodland was created in England between April 2015 and March 2016, a fraction of the of the amount needed to meet the Westminster Government’s annual target of 5,000 hectares. This has led to concerns, from the nursery sector in particular, of a crisis of confidence in the forestry sector.
Mr Goodall added: “We must address the bigger issue of the poor uptake of the Countryside Stewardship scheme and the bureaucracy that is holding back potential planting. What the new figures show is that innovative schemes can have a big impact - and we need more of this kind of approach.
“If we can get 1000 hectares of applications within just two months, there is clearly interest out there - and we will work with the Government to tap into that demand and deliver the new planting needed to stimulate England’s rural economies.”
The Forestry Commission announcement is here
Notes to Editors
- The Woodland Creation Planning Grant contributes towards the costs of gathering and analysing the information land managers need to consider to ensure their proposals take account of any impacts on: Forestry and the natural environment; landscape; water; the historic environment. There is also provision to support engagement with stakeholders. Proposals had to be at least 30 hectares in area and showing potential to benefit the forestry sector in the long-term through the provision of timber or other wood products.
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