Uplift Woodland Creation Offer payments

Defra and the Forestry Commission announce significant uplift in England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) payments to increase tree planting across the country.

Ancient woodland

The increase in EWCO payment rates will take effect immediately and offer land managers and farmers more tailored tree-planting incentives to encourage woodland creation where it is best suited, whilst also protecting our most productive farmland for food production.  This forms a key part of the Government’s plans to achieve net zero by 2050 and to put nature at the forefront of its efforts to tackle climate change.

According to Defra, uplifting EWCO payment rates continues delivering on the Government’s pledge that no-one will be unfairly disadvantaged if they start planting now, rather than waiting for future government schemes.

The current maximum rate per hectare available from additional contributions will increase by 45% from £8,000 to £11,600. That will increase to £12,700 in stackable payments if the land is also eligible for the new Low Sensitivity Land Payment. A new ‘Nature Recovery – premium’ payment option (£3,300 per hectare) has also been added to the Nature Recovery Additional Contribution – designed to encourage the planting or natural colonisation of highly biodiverse woodlands next to ancient woodland. Payments for flood risk management have doubled from £500 to £1,000 per hectare, and recreational access has increased from £2,200 to £3,700. Annual maintenance payments have also been raised from £350 to £400 per hectare, per year, for 15 years. 

Forestry Commission Chief Executive Richard Stanford said: “There has never been a better time for farmers and land managers to plant and grow more trees, and today’s announcements make it clear that woodland creation is a compelling part of the business of land management. I encourage everyone eligible to take advantage of the generous woodland creation incentives now available. In addition to encouraging woodland creation away from most productive land, it is important to remember that trees and woodlands can support farming objectives – for instance providing shade and shelter, improving productivity through healthy soil and water, reducing erosion and nutrient loss from surface run-off, or improving drought and flood resilience.”

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “We have made our commitment to farmers and land managers taking part in the England Woodland Creation Offer clear – we will support you, invest in you and reward your action in helping to meet our ambitious targets for the environment and the climate. Today’s uplift to rates is the latest step. It pays to be part of the England Woodland Creation Offer. Food security is a government priority, and we will continue to support our farmers and land managers to improve and conserve the natural environment and plant more trees, whilst making sure our best agricultural land is kept for food production.”

The announcement follows the launch of the new Woodland Creation Fast Track, which will see the Forestry Commission process EWCO applications with at least 90% of land located on low sensitivity land, within 12 weeks (60 working days) – as long as the application is complete, UK Forestry Standard (UKFS) compliant, and provides the correct information from the outset.