As the Tree Planting Season Approaches…

As we head into Autumn, the main season for tree planting, Mike Dyke, Environment & Woodland Advisor at H&H Land and Property, looks at what you must consider when planting.

Mike Dyke discusses why he thinks that the current Woodland Creation Grant is the best planting grant seen for many years.

Mike Dyke

Mike Dyke

“As a result of weather extremes, 2018 has been a tough year for young trees across the UK. The late snow in the spring and the drought conditions through the summer have, unfortunately, had significant detrimental impacts on trees which were planted last season.

Looking ahead, we expect quite a high percentage of planting this winter to be replacements of dead trees from last year. The attrition rate will be of particular concern where the tree planting was grant aided, or a specific stocking density is required to meet re-stock conditions of a felling licence.

The Forestry Commission have recently issued guidance and clarified details in relation to the applications for force majeure; where the conditions of a grant scheme may not be being met due to these extremes of weather. It is imperative these applications are submitted right away, in order to protect the applicant against grant re-claims. Beat-up surveys and supplemental planting will be a key theme. If your grants are in place, you MUST check the guidelines with your agent to ensure complete compliancy. For those looking to find out more about guidance, this can be viewed on The Forestry Commission pages on .gov.uk.

As we approach the start of the new tree planting season, ground preparation and fencing are underway, with last minute orders for tree stock going into the nurseries.

Agreement documents for the Woodland Creation Grant are expected imminently from Natural England/Forestry Commission and once they are signed and returned, the planting will begin in earnest. So, as soon as it drops on your doorstep, review the documents and if all is in place, sign and return.

Since the beginning of this scheme, there has been a bottleneck at this time of year for many years, with land owners unable to confirm instructions to contractors, or orders for fencing and tree stock, until the grant documents come through.

However, fortunately, the Forestry Commission has recognised this problem and has announced that the time scales for making a new grant application and the issuance of agreements is to change. With the announcement of a new “rolling application window”, this now allows for applications to be made year-round rather than the tight Jan-Feb window we have had until now. This will certainly improve this Sept/Oct hiatus while we wait for grant contracts.

The current Woodland Creation Grant (offered through Countryside Stewardship) is perhaps the best planting grant we have seen for many years. With its per item capital expenses, annual maintenance payments and infrastructure contributions, it really does reflect the Government’s commitment to support the creation of new woodland. The emphasis of the scheme is greater consideration of the design of woodlands; the right trees in the right place. Proposals for “looming” spruce plantation atop the Lake District Fells, for example, will simply not succeed.

That is not to say that the scheme excludes productive woodlands, more that landscape sensitivities are given much greater weight. Conifer planting is traditionally the typical forestry investment vehicle, but perhaps now is the time to consider planting more diverse woodlands, including elements of conifer, productive broadleaf for merchantable hardwood timber and plantations to meet the fast growing demand for locally sourced wood fuel. Multi-purpose designed woodlands will also assist with water management, including attenuating flows to alieve flooding and reduction of diffuse pollution and soil erosion.

So, a final word of advice from Mike: “Submit the applications, sign the documents, expand your woodlands, but remember to stay compliant.”

HH land

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