LH2: Restoration of forestry and woodland to lowland heathland

Find out about eligibility and requirements for the restoration of forestry and woodland to lowland heathland option.

How much will be paid

£184 per hectare (ha).

How long the option lasts

This option lasts for 10 years, instead of the standard 5 years for the grant scheme.

Where to use this option

Available for Higher Tier

Whole or part parcel


Only on lowland heathland that has established tree cover over most of its area

Where this option cannot be used

Features that can be included in this option

The following features can be included if they are part of the land, even if they are ineligible for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS):

  • bare ground
  • open water
  • scrub

How this option will benefit the environment

It re-establishes lowland heathland on forested land or land recently (since 1900) colonised by woodland.

Once trees are felled and removed and extensive areas of sandy soil are exposed, heathland areas should develop over the first 2 to 3 years. The area will have a tree cover under 15%, with a diverse mosaic structure and composition, including undisturbed bare ground and varied heathland vegetation types.

The cover of undesirable species will be low and vegetation that increases when undermanaged (bracken, scrub, dense grass tussocks) should be kept under control.

Locally characteristic plant communities and the species they support (such as nightjar, woodlark, smooth snake or sand lizard) will successfully colonise the site, if within their range.


Agreement holders are likely to need to:

  • remove trees and scrub, along with the accumulated organic litter layer when it’s deeper than 5cm
  • graze or cut to manage the colonising heathland vegetation, leading to a balanced range and distribution of dwarf shrub age classes
  • follow set times for grazing or cutting
  • carry out hydrological restoration measures, if needed, such as damming ditches or blocking drainage, if appropriate
  • create or maintain between 1% to 10% of bare ground cover – do not create bare ground on historic or archaeological features
  • maintain tree or scrub cover below 15%
  • maintain the full range of age classes of Western or European gorse
  • manage bracken so that cover is less than 10%

The agreement will set out what must not be done. It is likely that agreement holders will not be allowed to:

  • plough, cultivate or re-seed
  • apply fertilisers, manures or lime
  • carry out supplementary feeding
  • use pesticides, including herbicides, except to spot treat or weed wipe or to control injurious weeds or invasive non-natives

Keeping records

A valid Wildfire Risk Assessment and a Wildfire Response Plan (agreed with fire service) will be needed. For guidance and example plans see the Forestry Commission’s guide. Copies of the Wildfire Risk Assessment and, where required, the Wildfire Response Plan and Wildfire Management Plan will need to be submitted with the first claim.

Agreement holders will need to keep the following records and supply them on request:

  • field operations at the parcel level, including associated invoices
  • consents or permissions connected with this work
  • any sites grazed will require a grazing activity record

On your annual claim you will be asked to declare that you haven’t carried out any activities prohibited by the option requirements.

You should also be aware that at the start of each claim year, a percentage of agreement holders will be asked to take and submit the following photographic records:

  • photographs of the management undertaken

Applicants will need to send the following with their application:

  • photographs of the existing bracken

The detailed requirements for this option will be tailored to the Higher Tier site. Applicants should discuss and agree these requirements with their adviser.

The following options and supplements can be located on the same area as this option:

Advice and suggestions for how to carry out this option

The following section gives advice on carrying out this option successfully but does not form part of the requirements for this option

Tree removal and burning

Some areas where trees are well established will look more like woodland than heathland before management takes place. Remove felled trees from the site – but some wood can be retained on the site as a wildlife habitat if Natural England has given permission.

Thin branches and twigs can be burned on site, but do not burn in species-rich grassland, anthills or on other ecological or archaeological features. Clean the area as soon as possible after burning. Control nettles, thistle, dock, ragwort and other weed species as the site regenerates.

Site maintenance

Supplementary seed or heather brash from neighbouring sites may be needed to help heathland establish if there is not enough seed in the soil. Heathland features should be maintained and encouraged as they develop. Heathland sites have acidic and nutrient-poor soils and need active management to keep their ecological value. Such management will usually combine grazing, cutting and removal and/or burning.

Larger sites will often also include areas of acid grassland or wetland habitats, with the transitional zones between heathland and such habitats being of particular value.

The removal or disturbance of top soil may be needed, to create or maintain some features, such as bare ground. Do not create bare ground on historic or archaeological features. Such features are best protected by implementing an appropriate grazing or cutting regime, and/or preventing scrub and bracken growth.

Further information

The Forestry Commission should be consulted when developing this option. They will advise on the need for a felling licence or an environmental impact assessment.

Further information is available from:

  • Symes, N. and Day, J. 2003. A practical guide to the restoration and management of lowland heathland, The RSPB, Sandy
  • guidance on habitat management for reptiles at the Arc Trust

See the Higher Tier manual to find out more about the scheme and how to apply.

Published 2 April 2015
Last updated 10 March 2017 + show all updates
  1. Updated for 2017 applications.
  2. Information updated for applications in 2016.
  3. First published.