Landowners in England are to be paid thousands of pounds to create woodlands that boost biodiversity and reduce flooding, the UK government announced last week.
The Forestry Commission plan will for the first time allow payments for natural regeneration, where wind-blown seeds colonise land. This can be the best way to recreate native woodlands and some landowners have complained that past grants only allowed tree planting. Support for planting trees along rivers to improve waterside habitats will also be offered for the first time.
The government announced the biggest shake-up of farming policy for 50 years in November, enabled by Brexit. It said £1.6bn of annual subsidies would be redirected from simply rewarding land ownership or rental to measures that help tackle the climate and wildlife crises.
Under the new scheme, the Forestry Commission will cover the costs of saplings and planting, and pay bonuses of up to £2,800 a hectare for woodland that helps wildlife recover, £2,200/ha for woodland with long-term public access, and £1,600/ha for riverside trees. It has a £16m budget for the first year and the government has pledged £500m in future funding for trees and woodlands.
The scheme is part of a post-Brexit shake-up of farming policy. Forestry Commission chair, Sir William Worsley, said: “This grant gives everyone the opportunity to see woodland creation as a financially and environmentally rewarding option.”