Million pound forestry fund opens for business

Confor has welcomed the launch of a £1 million fund by the UK Government to support forestry planting in England.

The fund was confirmed in a letter from Chancellor George Osborne to Confor Chief Executive Stuart Goodall last month - and publicly announced by Forestry Minister Rory Stewart at Confor's Westminster conference three weeks ago. 

It was launched officially yesterday (Wednesday December 2) as the Woodland Creation Planning Grant (WCPG) and is described as "a new grant to support the preparation of plans to design multi-purpose woodlands in England with a significant productive component". 

The Forestry Commission England website says: "It will contribute 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; and the historic environment.

"There will also be provision to support engagement with stakeholders."

Stuart Goodall said: "I am very pleased to see that this fund is open for business so soon after Confor received confirmation from the Chancellor and Rory Stewart that the money would be made available to the industry. It is vital that there is an increase in new productive planting to support the future success of the forestry and timber sector, and this fund should play a key role in making that planting happen."

The FCE website says any proposals "will need to meet some basic criteria, being 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". 

Details of the fund and how to apply can be found here.

The first phase of the fund will be available for applications until March 31st 2016. Phase 2 will follow from April 1st 2016, with further details to be announced.

Ian Gambles, Forestry Commission Director England, said: "Forestry is a long term business that needs considerable commitment up front and it may be decades before significant returns can be realised. I am delighted we have now opened the new Woodland Creation Planning Grant that supports the sector's ambition for more woodland in England, making it easier to create woodland and secure funding from investors."

Confor lobbied hard to ensure that the fund - first announced by the previous coalition government in March - would be made available to stimulate new planting, supported by Chris Davies MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on forestry.

Mr Goodall added: "Confor worked hard behind the scenes to ensure this funding can help stimulate forestry across rural England - and I am delighted that we can now move ahead and work with Government to deploy it where it will be most successful in stimulating rural economic growth."

Oliver Combe, who headed up the Roots to Prosperity (R2P) scheme in the North of England, said: "R2P has been a great success and it's excellent news for the sector that this fund is open. The real value of this public money is its ability to leverage further funding from private and public sources at local level, which means that £1 million can go a very long way."