Two years without new tree planting grants in England!

*Update! Our petition is now live! Please join more than 25,000 others and back our call*

In all of the talk about Common Agricultural Policy reform over the last few months including all those technical policy concepts such as greening, modulation and budgets, a simple fact has slipped unnoticed under the radar. During 2014 and 2015 there will be no funds to allow any new entrants into woodland creation or woodland management schemes in England. This affects landowners, conservation groups, communities, local authorities – anyone wanting to plant trees.

True, if you had rushed to get your forms in by August 2013 and your application is signed off by the end of December, you can carry on planting in 2014 and 2015. And if you are already in an existing five year contract with the Forestry Commission for woodland management or creation management, you will continue to get paid until your scheme is finished. But then you’re on your own until 2016 when the new CAP funded programmes should finally be up and running.

How has this alarming state of affairs come about? After all, only ten months ago the Government published its Forestry Policy Statement which aspired to create a new woodland culture and to create 5,000 hectares of new woodland a year, and with funds drying up so dramatically it seems the left hand and right hands of DEFRA are definitely not in tune with each other.

I’ve been on a bit of a personal crusade to try and unpick why this situation has occured and, more importantly, to ask what DEFRA is going to do about this. The glacial machinations of CAP reform and the transition from one seven year programme of rural grants to another have been partly to blame (though I won’t bore you with all the details) but our colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland seem to have come up with a solution to this ‘transition’ period which means it can be managed without a two year gap. Who in DEFRA was speaking up for woods and forests when these arrangements were being agreed? Who was making the links between agriculture and forestry?

And to add further complications DEFRA has also ambitiously decided to change its whole environmental land management IS system at the same time to create a brand new single grant programme covering agri-environment schemes and woodland grants all in one. Well, good luck with that DEFRA.

spadesIn the past few years FC in England has funded around 2,500 hectares of new woodland in England annually, a long way off the Government’s aspiration. But my prediction, which I hope is proved wrong, is that in 2014/5 planting could halve and in 2015/6 it could be down to a third of the current level. Low planting rates combined with the impact of tree disease such as Phythophthora on larch, and development pressures means that England could be sleepwalking into a period of deforestation.

I should of course report that FC has promised £0.5 million for essential forestry capital works… but this is hardly going to make up for this ‘discontinuity’ as one FC employee has disingenuously described it to me. And of course there are no new woodland management grants either for two years to support forest restoration activity.

Here at the Trust we are pushing for a better short-term solution to this ( *Update!* Our petition is now live!), drawing attention to the problem publically and asking the awkward questions whenever we can of increasingly senior DEFRA and FC staff at every opportunity. But we are getting few answers to the question – never mind how we got here, what will you do to ensure publically funded planting is possible in the next two years?

This morning the Government launched a public consultation on the priorities for using the next seven year’s worth of money from the CAP, which include direct farm support as well as wider countryside and rural development, including forestry grants. Once that consultation closes (it runs for just 4 weeks!), the two new DEFRA ministers have a chance to show their credentials and submit proposals to the EU for using our EU expenditure in support of England’s woods and forests.

If they don’t, any flicker of momentum in the Government’s forest policy on woodland expansion that might have been starting to build will be snuffed out. Unless woods are brought close to people through woodland expansion, woodland culture will remain a pipe dream.

Hilary Allison, Policy Director

* Watch Hilary discuss this issue on Channel 4 news *

Click to watch Woodland Trust Policy Director Hilary Allison talk to Channel 4's Tom Clarke at Heartwood Forest

Woodland Trust Policy Director Hilary Allison with Channel 4’s Tom Clarke at Heartwood Forest

About Kaye Brennan

Senior Campaigner (Policy & Advocacy) for the Woodland Trust and Administrator, 'Woodland Matters' blog
This entry was posted in Campaigning, Climate Change, Conservation, Consultation, Defra, England, Forests Report, Government Affairs, Planting, Protection, Woodland creation and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Two years without new tree planting grants in England!

  1. Christina Degg says:

    Always the case an old tree blows down (but never gets replaced). Or gets ripped out of the hedge/field for bigger fields (easier access for larger farm machinery). Could also argue that greed from many a landowner also comes into the equation. But one never gets replanted anywhere else either though.

    Soon will be the day when not so many trees about, then people will wonder why. Should be more a case of when falls the council or whatever body should be funding to help replace that tree if not in that particular place then another. Councils at one time had a pruning and maintenance plan, now seems easier to just remove any tree that might cause a problem.

    Pretty soon our children will not see many old aged trees about which is a crying shame.

  2. Carbon Nick says:

    And just last week the UK committed $120 million dollars to the “Sustainable Forest Landscapes Initiative” that will support REDD+ schemes in developing nations! Crazy, given we’re not managing our own land sustainably.

  3. Pingback: Should Defra be REDD in the face? | Woodland Matters

  4. Pingback: A gap in grants affects everyone | Woodland Matters

  5. Clive C says:

    Surely the grants that are stopping are those that are funded not by the UK tax payer but from European sources. These funding streams are created to run for seven years, afterwich needs and priorities are reassessed. It so happens that we are reaching the end of the current seven year cycle. So it is not the Government who are withdrawing the funding ~ this funding was always going to stop at this time.

    Where the Government is to be criticised is that they appear to have failed to anticipate that the funding programme was coming to a end. They should have been evaluating how the current European grants have been appplied,
    Has “value for money” been ensured ?
    Where should future money be directed ?
    What are ongoing needs and priorities for this source of funding ?

    I seems that we are now in the silly position of experiencing the end of one programme without there being anything agreed for what might be put in place for the future.

  6. Pingback: Two years without new tree planting grants in E...

  7. thehutts says:

    I have been encouraging the growth of locally collected tree seed and look forward to hearing more about the work the Woodland Trust is doing in this area. I have oaks in pots in my garden that were grown from seed several years ago. I have slowly been finding them suitable homes.
    I work with farmers on agri-environment schemes and have to say that the farmers are also facing a 2 year lull in funding. This has been discussed at meetings for Farm Advisers for the last couple of years so I am surprised that this lack of forestry grants has not come to your attention before. Sally

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      Hi Sally. Our Director of Woodland Creation, John Tucker, talks in brief about the impact the lack of tree planting grants could have on farmers and the wider sector in his latest blog. It will be helpful to know what you have been hearing from the sector too – watch out for this on Thursday morning. We have been talking to Defra and the FC for some time about this, and mostly the response from Defra has been recognition that it’s happened, but as Hilary says no attempt (yet) to provide solutions. Across the rest of the UK the situation is changeable, in Wales particularly things appear to be getting more concerning – I’m just getting the most up to date news from colleagues to share through our website. Given that we were getting no traction through the Westminster process we have had to bring the issue, and our call for interim grants to plug the gap, to the new Forestry Minister’s attention with our supporters beside us. Our petition is additional of course to further lobbying and an in-depth response to the consultation, where we all need to work incredibly hard with Defra to emphasise why woodland needs a high profile in the new RDP priorities. I can’t tell you how impressed we are to see more than 25,500 signatures on this already, and we are only in week one! and we know this will be felt by the Minister. If you can share it with your contacts too that will make sure it gains even more strength (www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/campaigning).
      (updated) Kay has replied below about seed collection, she has been working with Kew on this recently🙂

  8. Pingback: Two years without new tree planting grants in England! | Jim's blog

  9. Pingback: Suspension of Tree Planting grants | Save Sherwood Forest

  10. Reblogged this on e-ECO and commented:
    Important update on Enlgland’s forests

  11. Roderick Leslie says:

    So who will save the forests ?

    As Government continues to wrangle over the future of the public forests, has been fought off over abolishing the one – albeit very small – voice in the shape of forest services, struggles with rampant tree diseases and makes ever noisier threats to relax planning – and inevitably destroy more ancient woodland – , it is increasingly difficult to see anything other than disinterest or positive antagonism towards our trees, woods and forests.

    What would have happened if this had been grants to farmers ? Well, I suspect there is the rub – it would and could never happen because Defra is morphing back to where it started – MAFF, a Department unashamedly there for farmers and farmers alone.

    The best policies make links between sometimes widely different interests (something Government departments struggle with !) – so new woods around our towns and cities can deliver everything from landscape to renewable energy to health and wellbeing. Remember Chalara and the scandal over imported Ash ? Well, a key cause of the problem was the impact of stop-start support for new planting on our domestic nursery trade which has been completely undermined by its inability to match supply to ever changing grant generated demand. Far from resolving the problem by trying to create some stability and continuity, this will probably be the last nail in the coffin just as Ministers are standing up saying how supportive they are.

    Hilary is right in suggesting that we could soon see our tree cover in England going backwards – on top of tree diseases there are also legitimate reasons for removing trees -including restoration of habitats like heathland. Up until now new woodland has always exceeded legitimate loss of woodland cover – soon it may not and England will join the the uncomfortable club of nations eating into their vital tree cover. The only difference is that we’ve already gone far further than most of the developing countries we are so quick to criticise.

  12. Beautiful woodland is preferable to destructive bombs.

  13. John says:

    This government are currently spending, or should that be wasting, £500k per day on HS2! Need I say anything else?

  14. There’s an old Chinese proverb which I think is very appropriate in this day and age: “A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.” A freeze on tree-planting is an indication of the health of our own civilisation, reflected through the priorities of our government.

  15. Kaye Brennan says:

    Reblogged this on Elkieb's Weblog and commented:
    This week every day is #CTWW change the world Wednesday! My challenge? Get as many people as I can to hear about this🙂

  16. Rowen Wilting says:

    Well picked up Kaye!
    With HS2 & other issues they are losing any credability of being a ‘Green’ government.
    With the recent comments from the fuel companies that green taxes are hiking up our fuel bills………it’s time to ask where this money is going!

    As the above post says, the ground is covered with accorns, ash keys, beech mast etc.
    It’s an easy year to collect.
    It maybe something for the Woodland Trust to look into,…….. getting members to take part in a mass seed collection,….a handfull of soil in an old flower pot or paper cup…& you’ve got an oak seedling, they’re the easiest thing in the world to grow!…….The F.C used to collect hundreds of tons of seed for themselves & for export accross Europe, on these bumper seed years.
    All the seed collected, were from a registered seed stands, where it had been checked for Turkey Oak hybridisation, disease etc.
    It’s a good thing to do, but remember that your trees are going to grow into monsters, so think where you are putting them & of any future problems they may cause!

    • Kaye Brennan says:

      I blush Rowen, this is Hilary’s spot, and she’s digesting today’s consultation docs with Frances now so we can make sure we have all the details – if you let us know you’re ‘in’ at the link above then expect to hear very soon about how you can help see some interim support …really we should be knocking on an open door!
      I will ask Kay to reply about seeds she has been doing fascinating work with Kew🙂

    • Kay Haw says:

      Hello Rowan, at the Trust we are currently starting our own nurseries project, which will support the collection of millions of native seeds to grow into trees in the UK. We are also working in partnership with the Millennium Seed Bank, Kew, and their UK National Tree Seed project. It started this year and aims to establish a national tree seed collection for the purposes of long term conservation and to facilitate research to better understand and manage the native trees in the UK Landscape.Our engagement team also aims to organise some mass seed collections for the public to encourage everyone to grow their own trees. I love growing trees from seed and have some lovely little oaks that I cherish in my garden. They are sapling in pots at the moment, but one day I hope to plant them out and see them become mighty trees when I am old.

      • Rowen Wilting says:

        Hi Kay, I collected flora seed for the Millennium Seed bank when it first started, if I can help again in any way please let me know.
        More people should have a go at seed planting, it’s great to go back & see the results.
        I have planted them for nearly 40 years, as a job first off &………I’ve nearly reached half a million trees of mixed species.
        If you have a sensible place to plant out your seedlings go for it!

    • Well said Rowen Wilting

  17. Derek West says:

    One of DEFRAS missions is environmental protection and enhancement,what a joke,the problem
    is most people dont care.

  18. chris morley says:

    though this is not good news,why dont more folk plant native trees?? seeds are everywhere at the moment just give em a chance,most seeds you plant will grow,i have planted around 10000 trees this year,best places are on council land they NEVER cut grass at the edges just plant em,if you worriede just spred seeds its not rocket science lets help our selves

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