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When valuing a rural property, more often than not there is woodland of some size or shape whether it be a shelterbelt, plantation, scrub or ancient woodland area.

So how do you accurately value woodland?

Market evidence can be thin on the ground and ultimately there tends to be a large amount of special purchaser involved with what evidence there is available, for instance from a neighbouring land owner.

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

Lockhart Garratt recently teamed up with the rural team at Carter Jonas on a valuation of a woodland area to be purchased as an extension to a crematorium.  Here, land and wider property values were assessed by Carter Jonas with the timber value assessed through Lockhart Garratt’s expertise in assessing the productivity of the woodland.

John Lockhart comments:

It is important to know your Oak’s from your Ash trees and also to have an in depth knowledge of the timber industry, likely market players and also any tell tales of disease which our team are well versed to do so.

 

One of the most serious threats to our native broadleaves is the advancing impact of ash dieback.  Many might 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 vales 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 operations of these and other timber markets will be critical in ensuring that the impact of this disease is minimised and effectively mitigated.

Management is also critical.  Growing crop woodlands require effective management, however, given the timescale and costs 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 form part of the suite of silvicultural skills that Lockhart Garratt can provide.

However, value now goes beyond simply timber.  Woodland is now broadly recognised as having a valuable impact across 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[1] 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[2].  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 poor then how can you increase its value through planting and carefully planned management?  What other values does it hold and how can these be best explored and developed?

 

 

[1] Natural Capital is the sum of our ecosystems, species, fresh water, land, soils, minerals, our air and our seas.

[2] A Green Future: Our 25year Plan to Improve the Natural Environment.

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