Landowners and farmers should act now if they wish to access the Woodland Creation Fund capital grants under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme, warns Tom Arthey, director of farm business consultancy firm Arthey Associates.
As the name suggests, the grants are to assist with the costs associated with the planting up of areas of woodland, with a minimum size requirement of three hectares (which can be split into parcels as small as 0.5 hectares), and offering up to a maximum grant of £6,800/ha. The Fund is open to applications from 2nd January 2018, with the window of opportunity closing on 16th February 2018. For 2018 only, the grant will additionally assist with the funding of infrastructure, such as tracks, of up to 40% of those costs.
Successful applicants will have two years to purchase and plant trees under the Woodland Creation Fund, and three months to submit their claim. The woodland must be maintained for five years after the claim.
As well as the capital grants, farmers can also apply for grants towards Woodland Creation Maintenance, worth up to £200/ha per year contribution for a 10 year period to help with the ongoing management costs, as well as also potentially getting a one-off contribution towards the creation of a Woodland Management Plan for both new and existing farm woodland. Potential claimants can apply for £1,000 if they have 3-50ha, £1,000 plus £20/ha for over 51-100ha, and £2,000 plus £10/ha for the management of woodland over 100ha.
The schemes will be jointly delivered by Natural England, Forestry Commission and Rural Payments Agency, and supersedes any previous woodland stewardship schemes.
In addition to these woodland grants, four new Countryside Stewardship offers have recently been announced to open for applications in the New Year, with an aim to boost biodiversity and protect and enhance farmland and the countryside. These comprise Online Arable Offer, Lowland Grazing Offer, Upland Offer, and Mixed Farming Offer, providing opportunities for landowners and farmers across the country to deliver environmental benefits through a non-competitive application process.
The total budget available for Countryside Stewardship has been increased to £10million and the maximum grant that individuals can apply for has doubled to £10,000.
DEFRA claims that the scheme has been simplified to make applications easier, whilst the popular Hedgerows and Boundaries Grant will receive additional funding in 2018 up to a maximum grant of £10,000, up from £5,000 in previous application rounds. The new scheme allows applicants to deliver as few as three options, and there is synergy between the old ELS and HLS schemes and the new offering.
All elements of potential funding push towards achieving year round food, shelter, and nesting habitats for birds, as well as nectar sources and habitat for pollinating insects. The four offers have differing minimum requirements, varying from selecting at least two options under the Lowland Grazing Offer, while the other three offers require at least three options to be implemented during the agreement period.
Potential claimants can now make their applications for both the Woodland Creation Fund and Countryside Stewardship online from 2nd January, and Arthey Associates are happy to sit down with you and work out what funding you could be eligible for.
Please contact Tom Arthey on 07748 295 448 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.