New funding for tree planting is “Game-changer for Wales”
16 March 2020
A new £10 million funding pot for tree planting and woodland restoration in Wales is a "game-changer for forestry and the wider environment", according to Confor.
Anthony Geddes, Confor's National Manager for Wales, welcomed the Welsh Government announcement to fund greatly enhanced tree planting - and help deliver key environmental and economic objectives in Wales.
The £10 million Glastir funding - £8 million for woodland creation and £2 million for woodland restoration, added to an existing £5 million pot - was announced by the First Minister, Mark Drakeford AM.
The announcement came alongside Mr Drakeford’s launch of the National Forest scheme as part of developing a "connected ecological network" for Wales. Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths AM, who also attended the launch, said creating extensive new networks of woodland was a "challenging and long-term ambition". She promised to “allow everyone to make their contribution" to the programme.
Mr Geddes said the forestry sector was committed to making a significant contribution to increased tree planting: "This is a game-changer for forestry in Wales - and for the wider environment. Planting millions more trees marks a significant commitment to tackling the Climate Emergency, declared by the Welsh Government a year ago. [March 2019].
“At the same time, new planting can stimulate rural economic growth, as well as reducing flood risks and encouraging greater biodiversity to tackle the nature emergency. The private sector has a huge part to play in delivering the planting required - working in collaboration with the government, its agencies and all other groups committed to planting more trees."
The Welsh Government has a target of creating 2000 hectares of new woodland (about 4 million trees) every year, rising to 4000 hectares “as quickly as possible”. Despite applications to plant around 7000 hectares in 2019, funding was only available to plant 600 hectares. The last full-year figures (to March 31, 2019) showed that Wales planted 520 hectares of new woodland. The UK total for the 2018/2019 year was 13,400 hectares, with 84 per cent of that area planted in Scotland.
"This new funding can unblock the demand that we know is there - especially from the farming community," said Mr Geddes. "The majority of applications in 2019 came from the farming sector, with many farmers keen to engage with tree planting to help create broad and diverse rural businesses.
"I look forward to seeing attractive, high-quality planting schemes brought forward in 2020 to get millions more trees into the ground - and deliver economic growth and environmental benefits to our rural areas and beyond."
The £10 million must be allocated to contracts by 31st December 2020 but can be spent up until 31st March 2023.
Mr Geddes said positive, collaborative working between Confor, the Welsh Government and its delivery partners - Natural Resource Wales and Rural Payment Wales - had been crucial in securing funding to unblock the application process.
"The industry is delighted that the Welsh Government has listened to industry concerns on previous Glastir schemes," said Mr Geddes. "We welcome the extension of timescales to allow even better planning and community engagement and for trees to be sourced sustainably from UK stock. The priority now is to ensure that the funding committed through Glastir is allocated quickly and effectively.”
He also welcomed the First Minister’s vision of a “connected ecological network”, saying: “All types of forestry can contribute to this vision. The importance of productive forestry has never been greater to Wales than it is now.
“More forestry creation through National Forest is a real positive – and we look forward to ensuring it provides a mix of forestry designed to be self-sustaining and produce multiple benefits.”