Confor welcomes positive changes to forestry schemes in England

3 November 2023

Confor has welcomed positive changes to the major land management schemes for forestry - the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) and Countryside Stewardship (CS)  - announced this week by Defra and the Forestry Commission. 

John Bruce, Confor’s National Manager for England, said the changes had made the EWCO “perhaps the most generous new planting grant offer ever made available in England”.

The changes include:

  • An increase in Maintenance Payments from 10 to 15 years - to support land managers with longer-term activities to maintain new woodland to help care for the trees and ensure they become fully established.
  • An extended Capital Window from two to three years - ensuring there are two whole planting seasons to deliver a scheme, regardless of the start date of an agreement. Defra/Forestry Commission said this would “provide additional flexibility to plan work, securing trees and materials, and responding to weather conditions if it prevents planting from going ahead as planned.

Mr Bruce said: “Confor is very encouraged by this latest announcement on funding improvements for new planting in England.  Confor and its members continue to work with - and challenge - Government and its officials to meet new planting targets and to grow and use more of our own wood. This announcement along with other recent improvements in this space shows the Government is listening to our sector.

“We are delighted to see the increased timescale of maintenance payments for new planting being raised to 15 years which should make woodland creation a more viable option. Furthermore, the extended funding period should promote successful tree establishment and hopefully enhance the opportunity for growing more quality timber for future generations.”

He added: “EWCO is perhaps the most generous new planting grant offer that has been made available in England The extension of capital payments from two to three years will give that guaranteed two-year establishment window to take anxiety out of the process, giving more confidence and certainty.”

However, Mr Bruce stressed that Confor would still like to see more conifers being planted to secure future timber supply - and thought elements within  EWCO still restrict this.

He said: “We feel the generous additional contributions in EWCO for delivering a range of public benefits are favouring woodland creation using native trees and shrubs, and inadvertently restricting the opportunity for planting more conifer species. Through our ongoing work with the Industry leadership Group and Government, we want to champion and incorporate more softwood species as we look to grow more of our own timber for wood products, allowing our forestry and wood industry to play a huge part in meeting net zero, and supporting nature recovery.”

Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said the Commission had “listened to sector feedback on payment rates and timescales.”

Defra said the announcement follows a range of recent changes to improve the woodland creation process, in response to customer and stakeholder feedback. This includes the Ministerial consultation reform, designed to reduce the complexity and length of time it takes to apply to speed up getting trees in the ground and further improvements to EWCO applications, such as a new and improved application form. It promised “even more changes to improve the woodland creation process” in the coming months.

For more information and to apply, go to: England Woodland Creation Offer - GOV.UK (