You would have had to been living in a bubble not to have noticed the increasing focus on new woodland creation in the Government’s thinking and the wider public consciousness. From high profile announcements about the need for reductions in our carbon footprint, to national public campaigns such as the Countryfile Plant Britain initiative. We will shortly be seeing the long-awaited England Tree Strategy, which is likely to lock-in a commitment to see some 10,000ha (24,700Ac) of new woodland creation each year by 2030. This is a huge increase from current levels and will require some innovative thinking and increased levels of public and private sector financial support if it is to be achieved.
In a plan to grow the nation’s forests, Forestry England have also launched the Forestry England Woodland Partnership. A new leasehold offer looking to form new partnerships with landowners from the private and public sector. Once a lease partnership is agreed between the landowner and Forestry England, Forestry England will design, plant and manage every site as part of the nation’s forests and pay an annual, guaranteed rent. Further details of this new initiative can be found here.
On the public support side we are anticipating the launch of the the new England Woodland Creation Grant this Spring 2021. It is also expected that the emerging Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will see the development of natural capital approaches that will unlock more value for a wider range of ecosystem services for land-owners than ever before. Every effort is being made to ensure that any new funding offers will work effectively with existing schemes to ensure maximum flexibility and reduced bureaucracy, for those now looking seriously at woodland creation as part of their land management strategy.
One of the key drivers for new woodland creation is carbon, with new woodlands capable of sequestering some 170No. tonnes C02 per hectare over 25years.
The carbon market for new woodland creation within the UK currently is based around companies or organisations that choose to voluntarily report their emissions for corporate responsibility or environmental social governance reasons and is administered through the Woodland Carbon Code.
We are now seeing increased interest in the market for carbon credits with prices strengthening by the week and offers now being secured in excess of £30/tonne C02, (£7,500/ha). Lockhart Garratt are developing markets for good quality woodland creation through its association with the Forest Canopy Foundation.
The Environment Bill 2019-20 will establish the principle of measurement of biodiversity value using the evolving Defra metric. It will also introduce the requirement for development to deliver 10% net gain against the baseline position.
Conversion of the site to woodland and associated habitats such as species rich grassland, ponds and waterbodies, scrub etc. will offer the opportunity to create biodiversity credits, which could be used to offset biodiversity losses on local development sites.
There is no standard tariff for biodiversity credits, however, based on the requirement to create, manage and maintain a habitat for 30yrs, it is likely to be in excess of £10k per credit.
Further details can be found in our recent guidance note, Biodiversity Net Gain: A guide outlining the basic principles of Biodiversity Net Gain for Professionals and Land Managers.
Environmental Net Gain
Beyond biodiversity and carbon there are many other benefits that are critical to our natural capital and wider society that would be encompassed under a wider environmental net gain approach. For example: clean air, clean water, flood prevention, soil protection, food and timber production, physical health and well-being, landscape and pollination.
New woodland will deliver against all of these matrices and as we see markets develop they offer the prospect of attractive and sustainable revenue streams.
All too often, landowners dismiss tree planting on their land based on viewpoints which are heavily influenced by their perception of:
- Lack of available land (land should be retained for production, regardless of quality);
- The devaluation of land from arable (circa £9,000 an acre) to woodland (circa £5,500 an acre);
- Historic depressed timber markets;
- Complicated/unattractive grant opportunities; and
- Loss of revenue.
However, as can be seen from the above the position is changing and it is critical that landowners have a clear understanding of the emerging position and are able to consider the opportunities in conjunction with wider decisions on land management policy – in a post Brexit, post pandemic world.
Woodland Creation Audit Report
To support our clients in this area we can prepare a simple briefing note to present clear opportunities as to where tree planting could be undertaken on an estate or farm. This will be backed up by sound, evidence-based technical advice together with accurate budgeting and financial analysis.
In our view that woodland creation, in particular in conjunction with wider sustainable management of existing woodlands, is an option that needs to be taken seriously with the context of wider rural land management.