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Hints and tips for a Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation Grant application

The Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation Grant 2018 window opened on the 2nd January, providing an opportunity for land managers to get funding to support woodland creation projects. You could get 80% of the standard cost of capital items for planting and protecting new woodland, capped at £6,800 per hectare. In 2018 we are also offering 40% of actual costs for forest roads and tracks.

If you are making an application here are a few top tips to help make planning your woodland and making an application easier.

Register your land!

Your land must be registered with the Rural Payment Agency (RPA). Before you apply, check that your land is registered correctly by logging onto Rural Payments service (www.ruralpayments.service.gov.uk) to ensure your land parcels appear as you expect and are linked to your Single Business Identifier (SBI). If not, you’ll need download and complete an RLE1 form to update this information. Send your completed RLE1 form to the RPA as soon as possible otherwise this could delay your CS application.

Guidance, guidance, guidance

Read the guidance! There is a lot of information out there to support you in preparing your application. Read the manual, read the how to guidance and practice using the application form and Annex 2, check out the exemplar maps and watch the webinar. This information is all there to help you get your application right the first time which will help us process your application faster. 

Speak to an expert – your Woodland Officer is keen to talk to you 

Forestry Commission Woodland Officers are ready to help you. They are here to help you ensure your design is right for your objectives and the area. Engaging with them early in the process will help you understand the process and what’s needed from the start. You can find your nearest Woodland Officers on our contact us page.

We are ready to help but if you have little experience of either tree planting or applying for government grants and need help with the finer details or preparation of your application, then consider using a forestry agent. 

Environmental Stewardship

Land currently in Environmental Stewardship (ES) must either be removed from the ES agreement or the current ES scheme allowed to expire before a CS Woodland Creation agreement can be issued. For land in an Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) scheme this process is fairly easy but your land must pass the relevant checks for eligibility. For land in a Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, the checks are more complex and some HLS agreements will not be eligible to come into a Woodland Creation Grant agreement without penalty.

To make the process easier and to limit the delay in receiving an agreement you will need to complete and return the relevant Land Transfer and Amendment (LTA1) form to Natural England before 31 May 2018. You may also be required to complete an RLE1 form if you plan to split the land parcel between the land in ES and that in your woodland creation application – this must also be sent to the RPA by 31 May 2018.

Do you have control of the land?

Check you have management control over the land. If needed, be sure that the owner of the land is supportive and aware of you entering into a CS Woodland Creation Grant agreement. You must be able to demonstrate that you have management control of the land for the two years of the agreement and then the following five year obligation period. If you cannot maintain management control over the land for the obligation period, the owner of the land must be able to guarantee this otherwise you will not be eligible for a Woodland Creation Grant. You cannot enter into an agreement if you do not have management control for the agreement period (two years).

Plan in advance

Do your research: if you’re an agent working for a land owner ask the owner about past land management options, previous schemes on the land, land designations including Local Wildlife Sites, archaeology, Internal Drainage Board etc. Check if there are any designations on or near your land that must be accounted for in the woodland’s design or which may require consent before an agreement can be offered. Log onto the Land Information Search to check for some designations and look at the local objectives for woodland creation in your area. This will also help ensure your proposal meets the minimum scoring requirements for biodiversity, water or cross cutting objectives.

The more planning you do in advance, the less changes are likely to be needed during the application process and this will speed up your application’s processing.

Talk to people

It is really important that you speak with as many people with an interest in your proposal as possible early on in the process of developing your application. This will ensure you have not missed anything that could cause a hold-up further down the line and will help you meet the requirements of the new EIA regulations. Talk to Natural England, talk to Historic England, talk to your neighbours and planning authority – make sure everyone is clear about what you want to do.

Think long-term

What do you want to grow? It is really important that you identify what you want to plant and how you want to plant it based on the site and your expectations of what you want to get out of your woodland for the next 10, 20, 100 years.

Choose the right tree for the right location. For species choice, thinking ahead for the future is very important and applicants should use Forest Research’s Ecological Site Classification (ESC) modelling tool (www.forestry.gov.uk/esc) to see what is suitable to plant under future climate change scenarios.

There are new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regulations

Don’t forget that the EIA regulations for forestry projects - woodland creation, deforestation and/or forest roads and quarries infrastructure - were changed in spring 2017. You will need to comply with these new regulations.

The principle change is the requirements for applicants to obtain relevant environmental information – checking what designations and features of interest are on the land - and to undertake local stakeholder engagement upfront and to use this information to help plan and design the project.

You will need to provide the environmental and stakeholder information you collect and an outline of how you have used it when designing your woodland proposal. These requirements are incorporated into the application forms – so you don’t need complete a second separate application for an EIA opinion. However, depending on your project you may be required to provide supporting information with your application such as reports, surveys and evidence of consultation.

You can find information on the revised EIA regulations and projects guidance on our EIA webpage.

A picture tells a thousand words – use maps!

Maps are extremely important. Your application map needs to clearly show:

  • The areas you want to plant and areas of any open space
  • Any fence lines and gates – this might only be indicative at the initial application but gives us an idea of whether it is appropriate

Also take photos – even if it is a photo of a space in a field where there might one day be a fence or a gate!

If your application map doesn’t comply with the guidelines laid out in section 5.5.1 of the manual, Natural England will send you a replacement base map to do it again – avoid this by checking the guidance and looking at the exemplar maps available in the how to guidance document (Annex C).

We also encourage you to create concept maps to support your application that show a greater detail of your planting design. Annotated maps with information such as where different types of woodland will broadly be i.e., 'conifer', 'native broadleaf', 'mixed', etc. are a simple way to communicate your planting concept.

The planting concept should be developed around the existing features on the land:

  • Are any existing priority open habitats or historic monuments incorporated into the design as unplanted areas and do they have enough buffer space?
  • Do the trees you have selected all fit with the landscape?
  • What is the visual impact going to be: think about the view from the nearby roads and viewpoints on to and out of the site, and try to envisage the woodland in the short (10 years) and long term (100 years)?

What about access?

When you are designing your planting scheme, have you considered how you will access the site at each stage of establishment? From initial tree planting, to weeding and general maintenance of the site, how will you get to your trees? This year the Woodland Creation Grant includes a 40% funding contribution (capital item FY2: Woodland Infrastructure) for forest roads and tracks to help with the establishment of creation projects. Please see the manual for more information.

Submit your application early

The application window runs from 2 January to 16 February. This does not mean you should be submitting your application at midnight on 16 February! Get your application in early and if there are any problems Natural England can work with you to resolve them in good time. This may mean you can get to work with your Forestry Commission Woodland Officer on your application earlier too.

Missing information

One of the most common reasons applications are held up during processing is because the applicant has not submitted all of the information required. If the Forestry Commission or Natural England asks for the information it is because it is needed to process the application. Please send us what we need so we can process your application as quickly as possible.

Last updated: 16th February 2018

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Further Advice
The Grants and Regulations webage contains all the information you need to apply for grant support. Alternatively, you can request this information from your local Forestry Commission office.