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Part two: The Forestry Grant Scheme Options and how to navigate them

Apr 19, 2021

David Kennedy has vast experience across the forestry sector, working in both the public and private sectors. Before working as a consultant advising Forest Direct Ltd and their clients, David spent 25 years with the Forestry Commission advising on grants, licences, woodland management, community woodlands and woodland creation. David is passionate about quality woodlands that utilise best forestry practice. Here he uses his vast knowledge to help break down the complexities of the Forestry Grant Scheme.

Part Two explores key considerations and the different types of woodland funded through the Forestry Grant Scheme.

Some important points to understand BEFORE you start.

Having discussed woodland creation proposals with hundreds of farmers over the years, the following are typical issues that need to be understood from the start of any project;

  • Woodland creation – you continue to get your Basic Payments.
  • It is a grant, and unless you have a sizeable area to plant, the grant may not cover the total cost of planting and maintenance.
  • The grant is paid at the end of the project once the work is complete and the claim is submitted and approved. You may need to borrow from the bank or have sufficient funds to finance the project upfront yourself.
  • Currently, a completed fence can be claimed separately from the final claim.
  • A new Scottish Forestry initiative ( March 2021) provides a loan scheme for woodland creation, offering up to 50% of the grant upfront. This is for schemes of up to 50ha in size; the loan is based on the first 20ha.  This may be equivalent to a loan of £50,000 approximately.  There are conditions behind this offer, but it is to help cash flow for farmers.
  • The scheme is scored by Scottish Forestry and is competitive. Small and expensive schemes may not get approval unless some of the capital items are self-funded.
  • There is an assumption that Sitka does not need deer fence protection, so the design may need to take this in to account.
  • There is a general move away from plastic, for example, tree shelters. Blocks of about 2ha of broadleaves in tree shelters may well prove cheaper to Scottish Forestry than a deer fence (not necessarily cheaper to you).
  • The grant is paid in two ways – once the capital works are completed, eg fences, mounding, planting, and a five-year maintenance grant that you claim on your SAF every year, which starts the following year.
  • Although the Forestry Grant Scheme is funded by different woodland types, called ‘options’, it is possible to mix most options. So do not panic about options; focus on the woodland type that fits your business objectives, and secondly fits the grant structure. Forest Direct can help with all of this.
  • Your proposal will need to be notified to the local Community Council and neighbours. Therefore, it is wise to get on with your neighbours and keep them informed as the project develops, especially if it impacts them directly. A key element to this is private water supplies and overshadowing.
  • It is possible for you to do some or all of the work yourself, such as fencing, mounding and planting, but beware, quality control and working to the agreed specification and area of the approved scheme is critical if you don’t want to have expensive arguments and delays of payment with Scottish Forestry.
  • You need to consider all the potential impacts that may be affected by the proposal. This is listed as “impact on human health and population, cultural heritage, soil, water, air, biodiversity, landscape, climate, land, material assets”. Currently, the two key stumbling blocks are peat and waders.
  • Remember that the first three years are critical to a good woodland establishment, so front-load the maintenance and focus on quality.

Woodland Types – Understanding Your Options

Scottish Forestry designed the FGS to meet the UK Forest Standards such that every woodland had some diversity and was not purely one species or another. This forced Scottish Forestry to introduce woodland creation ‘Options’. Within each ‘Option’, there are additional requirements such as open space, native broadleaves, and other conifers which may at first glance have nothing to do with the woodland type you want to create but ensure you include public benefit diversity. This diversity can be in separate areas within your proposed scheme but overall it must contain the required proportions.

Each Woodland creation Option has different amounts of grant aid applied to it depending on what the required percentages are and the costs of creating that Option or type of woodland.

For example…

Productive Broadleaf Woodland Option gets £2880 initial payment (standard area) which seems a lot compared to others, but then you have to plant 2500 plants per hectare or possibly 3000/ha of oak, and the plants are more expensive than conifers- hence the difference.

As mentioned previously, there is no hidden seam of gold so do not design your woodland looking for it – design to fit the site and your objectives.

The Main Options Available

1.Conifer Option  –  designed when the area is intended to include mainly Sitka spruce.

2. Diverse Conifer Woodland Option – designed when the species is specifically not to include Sitka, such as Scots Pine, Douglas Fir, Norway Spruce.

3. Native Broadleaves Woodland Option – native species found in Scotland and plants sourced as locally as possible. Beech and Sycamore are NOT native

4. Broadleaf Woodland Option – productive broadleaves planted closely and focusing on hardwood timber, probably, Sycamore, Beech, Oak.

5. Small and Farm Woodland Option – mixed woodland of both Conifers and Broadleaves, but does not include Sitka.  Has limitations to size and adjacency to other options.

6. Native Low-Density Woodland Option – sometimes used in conjunction with other options and is designed to reduce the number of trees per hectare to feather out the woodland and make it feel natural.  But grant amount suffers.

Other than the Small and Farm Woodland Option, the design can include more than one option, and it is often best if it does.

Conifer Option – A Worked Up Example

Minimum Requirements

Species Minimum quantity Maximum quantity Stocking /ha
ss 65% 75% 2500/ha
Other conifers ( eg NS, SP, DF etc) 10% 15% 2500/ha
NBL ( native broadleaves) 5% 10% 1100/ha
Open ground ( OG) 0% 10%  

Note – keep an eye on the number of trees to be planted per hectare, especially for broadleaves

Grant for Conifer Option

Standard area £1920 + (£208 x 5 years) = £2960/ha

Target area £2160 + ( £234 x 5 years) = £3330/ha

Note – more money in the target area for conifer and diverse conifer option and productive broadleaf option only. And needs to be in the Local Authority Woodland Strategy as a site that is ‘preferred or potential’ for woodland creation.

Cairngorms National Park offers these target rates for native woodland options also

Forestry Grant Scheme Eligibility

Every option of woodland has rules that need to be applied to make sure it is eligible for the grant, to discuss your woodland creation options, gran requirements and eligibility get in touch with the Forest Direct team.