Article prepared by Carter Jonas and Lockhart Garratt Ltd

When our team is tasked with the valuation of rural property, more often than not there is woodland of some size or shape to consider, whether it be a shelterbelt, plantation, scrub or ancient woodland area. One challenge we always face is how do we accurately value woodland?

Market evidence can be thin on the ground and, from the evidence we have found, there is often a special purchaser involved, for instance a neighbouring land owner.

As always, location underpins value, but designations also play their part…

Recently we teamed up with Lockhart Garratt, Environmental Planning & Forestry Consultants, on the valuation of an area of woodland to be purchased as an extension to a crematorium. Here, woodland values were assessed by Carter Jonas, with the timber value assessed by Lockhart Garratt, using their expertise in assessing the productivity of the woodland.

John Lockhart comments:

It is important to know your oaks from your ash trees and also to have an in-depth knowledge of the timber industry, likely market players and also any tell-tale signs of disease, which our team are well versed to do.

 

One of the most serious threats to our native broadleaves is the advancing impact of ash dieback. Many will have noticed the publicity around the work that Devon County Council have undertaken in the last few weeks to address issues of roadside safety. Sadly, going forward, we will only see this increase as the impact of the disease becomes ever more widespread and severe. In light of this, it is critical to understand your resource and ensure that management at least considers the impact and, if appropriate, action is taken to secure values. Ash is an incredibly versatile and strong timber, and is famously used as a core material for Morgan cars, a market which could return values in the region of £125/m3 as against £20/m3 for firewood.

Irish Hurling sticks are another important market, with values over £200/m3. Good knowledge of the scale and operation of these, and other timber markets, will be critical in ensuring that the impact of this disease is minimised and effectively mitigated.

Another critical factor is management. Growing crop woodlands requires effective management, however, given the timescale and cost, it is often neglected in competition with other priorities. In particular, we see many developing plantations where pruning is now critically required to secure their future timber values. The financial benefits are clear, with effectively targeted pruning operations resulting in increases in value between 5 and 20 fold. Why produce firewood when you can grow fabulous oak planking timber that will grace our lives for generations to come?

Understanding where to target your efforts and when it is critical to do so forms part of the suite of silvicultural skills that Lockhart Garratt can provide.

However, value now goes beyond simply timber. Woodland is broadly recognised as having a valuable impact on the widest range of ecosystem services, including flood prevention and alleviation, air quality, water quality, health and wellbeing, carbon sequestration, landscape, biodiversity, local climate regulation and public access to nature. As such, natural capital (the sum of our ecosystems, species, fresh water, land, soils, minerals, air and seas) and ecosystem services remain at the heart of government thinking, and form a key element of the proposed 25 year plan for the natural environment. However, these values are routinely understated and difficult to realise.

The 25 year plan notes that England’s woods and forests deliver services to the value of £2.3bn, with less than 10% of this relating to their timber value. This should make us look differently at the resource. Woodlands have not been viewed as an integral part of the commercial operation of rural property in the past, and this needs to change.

In summary, do you really know the value of your woodland? Is it really just that scrub on the edge of your holding, or is it worth more? If it is in poor condition, what can you do to increase its value through planting and carefully planned management? What other values does it hold and how can these best be explored and developed?

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