A RURAL watchdog has welcomed the opening of a tree-planting grant scheme by the Forestry Commission.

The new grant scheme, the England Woodland Creation Offer, designed for landowners and farmers, aims to support the creation of a range of woodland types and sizes.

Mark Bridgeman, President of the Country Land & Business Association (CLA) which represents 28,000 farmers, land managers and rural businesses across England and Wales, said: “We welcome this new scheme which offers much-needed impetus to tree planting in England.”

He added: “Payments for woodland creation under the EWCO are significantly better than previous schemes and the minimum application area has been reduced to 1 ha, which should increase interest in tree planting.

“Higher standard payments, with optional supplements for biodiversity, flood mitigation or access provision, makes woodland creation under the EWCO a more attractive option than before. It is well worth landowners looking into whether this new scheme can work for them.”

With £15.9 million available in its first year, the grant scheme, now open to applications, will provide enhanced payments rates

Forestry Commission chairman Sir William Worsley said: “This exciting new grant offer is flexible to allow landowners to create a woodland that meets their own objectives.”

He added: “From planting a small one hectare block, a strip of trees along rivers to reduce flood risk, to large mixed woodlands, this improved grant gives everyone the opportunity to see woodland creation as a financially and environmentally rewarding option. This will help with our journey to reach net zero by 2050.”