Rural lawyer welcomes government’s woodland creation support

A leading agricultural solicitor has welcomed a government pledge to support tree planting by offering farmers and landowners grants to press ahead with their schemes.

Through the launch of the England Woodland Creation Offer (ECWO), farmers and landowners could receive a one-off £8,500 per hectare grant for tree planting and woodland creation, alongside annual maintenance payments of £300 per hectare for 10 years.

Hannah Taylor, a senior associate at local law firm mfg Solicitors, has welcomed the move which establishes a national framework for tree planting which she says could give many farmers and landowners more confidence about signing up.

She said: “The government announced this scheme to encourage more tree planting and to reassure landowners that they will not be worse off than if they wait to see what future schemes come through. 

“It’s a welcome move as the EWCO should help give many landowners who are considering tree planting the reassurance they need in order to enter into the scheme, but it is also important to realise it may not work for all.”

A recent statement from Defra and the Forestry Commission reported that £25m in funding would be available for these types of schemes. The EWCO was initially launched in June 2021 as an interim funding scheme under the Agricultural Act, but it will transition into the Local Nature Recovery plan (LNR) from 2025.

Existing EWCO agreement holders will have the opportunity to transition their maintenance payments into the LNR scheme from 2026 in accordance with the government’s pledge that no one should be worse off if they start planting now rather than waiting for future Government schemes.

Ms Taylor added: “Many farmers and landowners may still have reservations about this given that many of the new schemes under the Agricultural Act and departure from the EU still lack clarity. 

“Whether the announcement that the EWCO is to become part of the LNR will give farmers and landowners the confidence they need to sign up to the EWCO will only become apparent in time, but potentially it’s a step in the right direction. As ever, taking professional advice is always the best starting point.”