“Leave a legacy not a liability”

Planting new woodlands is being heavily promoted by both government and environmental organisations currently, with a confusing array of political agendas and associated propaganda.

The good news is that the government has this month announced a new funding package for woodland creation in England called EWCO (England Woodland Creation Offer) which offers substantially improved grant rates in three elements;

  • Capital grants to create woodlands of up to £8500 per hectare
  • Payments for public benefit of up to £8000 per hectare
  • Annual maintenance contracts of £200 per hectare per year for 10 years

 

  • The increased capital grants are excellent and should cover the cost of planting woodland.
  • The payments for public benefit are a welcome reward for wider benefits to the environment and society that a woodland provides, but do come with some significant conditions attached to them.
  • The annual maintenance payment should be a valuable contribution to the process of turning newly planted trees into a woodland but is now a 15 year obligation and requires the woodland owner to remove tree shelters upon canopy closure.
  • This is a very attractive package and offers landowners the opportunity to create woodland fully funded by the grant and also release some capital from the planted land via the payments for public benefit.

There are some important points to consider though;

  1. The application process is complicated, longwinded and slow moving, allow at least one year.
  2. Once the decision has been made to turn land into woodland it is a long term commitment.
  3. To maximise the grants available careful consideration should be given to the location and content of the woodland.
  4. Consider carefully the revenue streams once the grant payments are completed, “A wood that pays is a wood that stays”
  5. “Native” species are currently fashionable but not financially rewarding and under threat from climate change in the long term.
  6. Conifers are resilient, financially rewarding but unfashionable however, all the indicators are that they will become more in demand as time goes on and hence more valuable.
  7. Be aware that the highest levels of “payments for public benefit” are for the least financially rewarding species mixes.
  8. Consider the location of the new woodland carefully, can it improve the farm layout, extend existing woodland or turn marginal farmland into a better long term land use.

It would be easy to rush into woodland creation and follow the fashion but beware that you are not creating a liability that will continue to cost money after the grants have run out.

Growing timber offers a solid reliable income stream, whilst managed woodlands deliver high biodiversity and significant environmental benefits through carbon capture.

Currently some commercial conifer crops are generating £1000 per hectare per year of income and investors are driving the freehold prices of commercial woodland higher and higher.

Well designed productive woodland with a substantial conifer element can significantly enhance a land holding and be very financially rewarding, but they need professional input to make sure that they deliver long term benefit.

 

If you are interested in woodland creation please contact Oliver Combe at Stephenson Rural on 07771 958975, oliver.combe@stephenson.co.uk

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