Guidance

Guide to Countryside Stewardship: woodland capital grants 2015

Published 17 February 2015

1. Overview

Foresters and other land managers can apply for woodland capital grants from 17 February 2015.

From February funding is available, to maintain momentum in the priority areas of:

  • woodland creation
  • woodland management plans to ensure woodland owners are in a position to apply for other support when full Countryside Stewardship opens
  • addressing tree health issues

To get a grant, applicants have to agree to carry out work on their woodland to support the environment.

Applicants can select from a range of capital items, which offer different amounts of funding.

Countryside Stewardship will open in full in July 2015 with additional capital items and options for existing woodland.  These will include a multi-year option and capital items to support woodland improvement. Applications for woodland management plans and woodland tree health support will continue to be accepted throughout 2015. Guidance for the full scheme will be published in the spring, ahead of the scheme opening in July.

Capital items

These apply to one-off payments towards the cost of certain items or activities, eg planting a tree or installing sheep netting.

Maintenance payment option

A maintenance payment option is also available to support newly created woodland.

1.1 When to apply

Tree health and management plan applications

Applications can be submitted from 17 February 2015. Successful applicants will receive an agreement once their application has been approved. A draft agreement will be issued within 11 weeks this could take longer if there are major issues to resolve.

Woodland creation applications

Applicants must submit woodland creation applications by 30 April 2015 to allow time for a site visit to take place and subsequent changes to proposals to be made (if necessary) ahead of the final deadline of 31 May 2015.

Woodland creation agreements will be issued to successful applicants from June 2015.

1.2 Who can apply

Land managers, owners, leaseholders and tenants can apply for capital grants.

Leaseholders and tenants must check that the owner of their land agrees with their proposal.

Land that can be included

The eligible land types and uses depend on the type of work planned. The criteria for each of the capital items are set out in the individual option guides.

Publicly owned land

Land managed by Government departments, their agencies and the Crown Estate is ineligible for capital grants.

Local authorities can apply for capital grants for:

  • tree health;
  • preparing a woodland management plan; and
  • capital items for woodland creation.

However local authorities cannot apply for the maintenance payment option associated with woodland creation.

Tenants of publicly owned land can apply for all items except maintenance payments. In all cases, the landlord’s consent is required and the work proposed must not already be covered by the tenancy agreement.

1.3 Payment rates

The amount agreement holders will receive depends on the capital items or options selected. The funding is a contribution towards the costs of carrying out the work.

For woodland creation, there is a limit of £6,800 per hectare for planting and protection. The maintenance payment option can be paid in addition to the capital items for planting and protection (where eligible).

For tree health restoration the following limits are applied per hectare for planting and protection.

Restock tree species Ancient woodland site Other
Native £3,500 £2,750
Non-native £1,750 £2,250

1.4 Agreement length

Capital items are one-off payments. These will be paid in either claim year 2015 /2016 or 2016 /2017 - depending on when the work is done. Agreements end when the final claim has been paid. Capital items must remain installed and in good working order for 5 years from the date of payment for that item - this is called the obligation period.

The maintenance payment is made annually and the agreement ends once the final claim has been paid.

1.5 How applications are selected for capital grants

Woodland creation agreements will be given to applicants whose proposals have a positive impact on:

  • biodiversity;
  • water (quality and flooding); and
  • climate change

Applicants working in partnerships at a landscape scale (involving multiple ownerships) and those with a large application area will be prioritised.

Applications for woodland creation funding will be held until 31 May 2015 so that they can be reviewed against other applications. Successful applicants will then be given an agreement.

Agreements will be given for management plans and tree health issues if applicants meet the eligibility criteria, subject to budget availability. Applications are not reviewed against other applications.

2. How to apply

Follow these steps to apply for Countryside Stewardship woodland capital grants 2015.

2.1 Register with the Rural Payments Agency

All applicants must register themselves and their land with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) before applying for capital grants.

Applicants will be given a ‘single business identifier’ (SBI) once they have registered and their land will be placed on the rural land register.

2.2 Get a customer registration number

Applicants must also register themselves and their land on the new Rural Payments system. They will receive a customer registration number (CRN) once registered.

2.3 Contact the Forestry Commission

Applicants must contact their Area Forestry Commission office to discuss their application. Each office can give applicants advice and let them know if they need to provide more information with their application.

The Forestry Commission will also arrange a site visit, if necessary. Woodland creation applications will need a site visit.

Woodland creation applicants must contact their area office with an initial application by 30 April 2015.

2.4 Prepare a map

Applicants need to mark a map with their land’s boundaries and features, clearly showing the area of planned activity and location of proposed capital items, which must be sent with their application.

The map will be digitised and checked against RLR land boundaries. The area of activity will also be checked and measured.

Find out how to get a map and how it must be prepared before submitting it with an application.

2.5 Complete and submit an application

Applicants need to complete the application form and send it with their annotated map by email or post to their Area Forestry Commission office for processing.

For woodland creation, applicants will also need to complete and submit the scoring form.

Scoring

The scoring process reflects the objectives of Countryside Stewardship with points available for biodiversity, water and climate change. Points are also available for partnership working and the size of application.  

Each application will need to reach a minimum threshold score of 6 points and achieve points against either biodiversity or water.

Elements of the scoring framework will depend on the location of the site and whether it touches a priority area for biodiversity or water. This can be checked by visiting the Land Information Search (LIS) website.  Scoring also considers the design of the woodland, information on how to design woodland that is priority habitat, reduces flood risk or improves water quality can be found on the Forestry Commission website.

2.6 Authorising an agent

Applicants can authorise an agent to act on their behalf to sign forms and make claims. To do this, they must submit the agent authority form.

3. Choose options

Applicants should choose from the full list of options and capital items for Countryside Stewardship woodland capital grants 2015. The full specification for each item is set out in the individual option guides.

Code Type Title Payment Aim
FG1 Capital Fencing £4/m Method of stock control, to help habitat management or protect environmental features
FG2 Capital Sheep netting £4.90/m Exclude sheep to protect environmental features
FG4 Capital Rabbit fencing supplement £2.50/m Supplement to fencing (FG1) or sheep netting (FG2) to exclude rabbits to help protect environmental features
FG5 Capital Fencing supplement - difficult site £1.24/m Supplement to fencing (FG1) to cover the extra costs of fencing on a difficult site
FG9 Capital Deer fencing £7.20/metres (m) To protect newly created woodland from deer browsing
FG12 Capital Wooden field gate or wooden wings £390/gate Facilitate stock management and keep livestock out of watercourses. Can only be used with a management option
FG14 Capital Badger gate £135/gate Provide badgers unrestricted access either side of a newly erected fence, which crosses known badger routes
FG15 Capital Water gates £240/gate Use across streams in conjunction with other stock control options
PA3 Capital Woodland management plan First 100ha at £20/ha, additional area at £10/ha - minimum payment £1,000 Support the creation of a detailed woodland management plan in accordance with the UK Forestry Standard
SB1 Capital Scrub control & felling diseased trees £260/ha to £1,680/ha - dependent on stem size, and percentage of ground cover To remove all diseased trees within the target area
SB6 Capital Rhododendron control £2,800/ha, £3,200/ha, £4,400/ha To destroy all rhododendron within the target area. The payment rate depends on the slope of the site or height of the rhododendron.
TE4 Capital Tree planting £1.28/tree To supply, plant and weed young trees and protect with a 0.6m spiral guard
TE5 Capital Individual tree shelter £1.60/unit To protect young trees with either a 1.2m or 1.8m tree shelter
WD1 10 annual payments Woodland creation maintenance payment £200/ha per year Support the creation of new woodland where this will provide environmental or social benefits

3.1 Grouping options

Applicants can group options and capital items to achieve a set outcome. Some capital items can be used in more than one group.

Options can be grouped to:

  • create new woodland;
  • remove diseased trees;
  • replant woodland following the removal of diseased trees; or
  • prepare a woodland management plan

Woodland creation

Applicants can be paid for planting trees to create new woodland.

Woodland creation requires the use of the capital item for tree planting (TE4). This provides funding to supply, plant, weed and protect young trees.

TE4 - Tree planting can be supported by the following capital items:

If eligible, applicants can also include the woodland creation maintenance option (WD1).

This is an annual payment to support successful planting of new woodland through activities such as:

  • replacing individual trees that die
  • maintaining fencing
  • removing competing vegetation

Woodland tree health: restoration

Applicants can be paid for the restocking of trees, following felling due to a tree health issue.

Tree health restoration requires the use of the capital item for tree planting (TE4). This provides funding to supply, plant, weed and protect young trees.

TE4 - Tree planting can be supported, where necessary, by the following capital items:

Support is only available if trees are infected by Chalara fraxinea or Phytophthora ramorum.

The Forestry Commission or APHA must confirm cases of Chalara fraxinea.

Phytophthora ramorum infected larch has to be confirmed by a statutory plant health notice (SPHN).

Woodland tree health: improvement

Applicants can be paid for:

The current eligible tree health issue for capital item SB1 is removal of immature larch infected with Phytophthora ramorum. SB6 can be used to remove rhododendron that is infected with Phytophthora ramorum or Phytophthora kernoviae or within 3km of a site with a statutory plant health notice.

3.2 Woodland management plans

Applicants can get support to prepare a new woodland management plan using the Forestry Commission woodland management plan template through the capital item PA3.

The management plan must cover all the woodland on a property. A “property” is taken to be the largest unit of management decision making and would normally be the same as a ‘holding’ ie all the land managed by an applicant in England. This usually means a single farm or a single estate where all the land is or has been managed as one unit.

The FC will consider requests to divide very large holdings into a number of “properties” in order to group all the woodland at a landscape scale or by water catchment.

This would apply to holdings that are dispersed, such as Local Authorities and national bodies like the Woodland Trust or National Trust but not management companies with a dispersed portfolio of clients.

As public funds are involved, the FC will have the final say on what constitutes a property in a given case.

4. After applying

Area Forestry Commission offices will reply by email or letter within 3 days to acknowledge applications. When they receive an application, the Forestry Commission will make sure applications are eligible and check the applicant and their land are registered with the RPA.

For woodland creation applications, the Forestry Commission will also:

If their application is successful, applicants will then be offered an agreement.

Unsuccessful applications can be re-submitted the following year.

4.1 Consultation: new planting applications

If an application includes new planting then an agreement can’t be issued until the application has been on the public register for 28 days.

The Forestry Commission’s public register will show:

  • the location of the land applied for;
  • the work that is going to be carried out; and
  • the value of the grant applied for

Members of the public can comment and raise objections to applications on this register and the Forestry Commission will consider all comments. They may ask applicants to change their proposals in response to comments from the public.

Once applications have been approved they’ll remain on the register so the public can see which applications will be going ahead.

The Forestry Commission will also consult with local authorities and other statutory organisations about the impact of certain types of application.

This consultation process, including placing the application on the public register, consulting with the local authority and preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment (if required), must be completed before agreements can be issued. In the event that this process goes beyond 30 September 2015, applications will be rolled over to the following year.

Environmental impact assessments

Woodland creation applications will be reviewed by the Forestry Commission to determine if they are likely to have a significant environmental impact.

In most cases, proposals are not regarded as significant and a full Environmental Impact Assessment is not required. If a full EIA is required, applicants will need to undertake this and submit an Environmental Statement to the Forestry Commission. The Forestry Commission’s consent must be obtained before an agreement can be issued. Area Forestry Commission offices can help applicants with their statements.

Dealing with an objection

If objections against a proposal are raised through the consultation process and can’t be resolved locally then the Forestry Commission can refer them to the Forestry and Woodland Advisory Committee (FWAC).

In the event that the FWAC cannot resolve an objection, the Forestry Commission Area Directors will pass the case on to the Forestry Commissioners. If they agree with the objection, they will decide immediately. If they disagree with the objection, they will seek the view of Defra Ministers before proceeding.  

4.2 Why applications are rejected

The Forestry Commission may reject an application at any stage, if:

  • it doesn’t meet eligibility criteria;
  • it doesn’t score highly enough;
  • it doesn’t meet the UK Forestry Standard or associated guidelines;
  • it is likely to cause harm to the environment; or
  • funds are oversubscribed.

4.3 Getting an agreement

Successful applicants will receive a copy of their draft agreement and a map produced by the FC confirming the area of activity. Applicants must:

  • sign these documents; and
  • return them to their Area Forestry Commission office within one month

If applicants don’t return their documents within one month, they will have to reapply. There is no guarantee that another agreement offer will be made. Applicants must then wait until the Forestry Commission has signed and returned a copy of the agreement before starting work, this will be returned within one month.

5. How to get paid

To claim payment, agreement holders will need to complete and submit a claim form.

5.1 When to claim payment

For capital items, agreement holders can only claim a grant that is due to be paid in the current claim year and can only submit a claim once the work has been completed. A claim year runs from 1 April to 31 March.

Agreement holders will receive woodland maintenance payments (in support of woodland creation) every year for 10 years. The first maintenance claims can be submitted from the first January after the planting season has ended (October to March).  

For example, if woodland is planted in December 2015 then the first maintenance claim can be submitted from January 2017.

Future claims for the maintenance payment must be submitted each year once the work has been carried out. Claims must be received before 15 May.

5.2 Checking claims

The Forestry Commission will check claims are correct and that any required evidence, eg geotagged photos, has been received.

5.3 Records that must be kept

Agreement holders must keep all invoices, records, photographs and accounts relating to their claim for the lifetime of their agreement. These must be produced for inspection by Natural England, the RPA or its authorised agents within 10 days of being asked to show them.

5.4 When to expect payment

Agreement holders will be paid for capital items, via BACS, within 28 days of the Forestry Commission receiving a claim. Woodland maintenance payments (in support of woodland creation) will be paid in the December following the claim.

6. Contact details

Applicants must contact their Area Forestry Commission office to discuss their application. Each office can provide information to agreement holders and applicants and advise on any additional details that are required.  

6.1 East and East Midlands

adminhub.eem@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Forestry Commission,
Santon Downham,
Brandon,
Suffolk
IP27 0TJ

01842 815544

6.2 North West and West Midlands

adminhub.nwwm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

North West & West Midlands Admin Hub
Government Buildings
Whittington Road
Worcester
WR5 2FR

0300 067 4240

6.3 South East and London area

southeast.fce@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Forestry Commission
South East and London Area Office
Buck Horn Oak
Farnham
Surrey
GU10 4LS

0300 067 4420

6.4 South West

adminhub.sw@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Forestry Commission South West England
Buller’s Hill
Kennford
Exeter
EX6 7XR

0300 067 4960

6.5 Yorkshire and the North East

yorkshirenortheast@forestry.gsi.gov.uk

Forestry Commission
Yorkshire and North East Area
Room G34
Foss House
Kings Pool
1-2 Peasholme Green
York
YO1 7PX

0300 067 4900

7. Agreement conditions

7.1 Changing the agreement

Agreements should be prepared so as not to need changing. Agreement holders should immediately contact the Forestry Commission if something unexpected happens and a change is needed.

Agreement holders should complete the amendment form and send it to the office that approved their agreement.

Let, sell or transfer land

If the agreement holder plans to sell their land, they must tell the Forestry Commission as soon as they can. They must submit the change of ownership form within 3 months of the change. New occupiers will also need to register with the RPA.

The RPA can reclaim money from agreement holders if work on the land doesn’t meet the agreement’s conditions, even if they no longer own the land.

7.2 Inspecting the work

Work funded through Countryside Stewardship may be inspected. The Forestry Commission carries out an annual inspection programme, visiting a sample of agreement holders. This is an EU requirement.

Inspectors will check that agreement holders are complying with the scheme’s conditions. Inspectors can visit at any time during an agreement and obligation period.

Inspectors will usually make an appointment but, under EU Regulations, they don’t have to give any warning. Agreement holders must give inspectors access at any reasonable time. They may be asked to accompany inspectors to identify work, discuss the requirements of the agreement and check compliance with scheme rules.

Deliberate failure to be available, or failure to accompany the officer at a prearranged time without valid reason, will be treated as unacceptable and constitute a breach of your agreement. In addition, refusal of an inspection may result in the agreement payment being suspended. Intentional obstruction of inspecting officers may result in liability for prosecution.

Authorised auditors from the Forestry Commission, RPA, Defra, National Audit Office, European Commission and European Court of Auditors may also inspect agreements.

7.3 Penalties

Agreement holders will receive penalties if they:

  • claim payments that aren’t due;
  • do not comply with the eligibility criteria;
  • claim for ineligible expenditure; or
  • fail to meet cross compliance requirements

Payments may be collected via other Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) schemes.

Agreement holders can complain or appeal to the RPA if they disagree with the Forestry Commission’s decision regarding penalties linked to cross compliance. Contact the RPA Customer Service Centre on 0345 603 7777 or email csc@rpa.gsi.gov.uk.  

7.4 How data will be used

Agreement holders’ information will mainly be used for administration of the grant scheme. The Forestry Commission or its appointed agents may also use it, in line with the Data Protection Act, for:

  • the administration of the Common Agricultural Policy, the England Rural Development Programme and other aid schemes;
  • publication on the Forestry Commission’s public register, including the name of the property and the value and timing of grants applied for;
  • communication with other organisations including Defra, other government departments (and their agencies) and local authorities in the administration of the application and agreement;
  • producing operational information and statistics; and
  • research aimed at improving services.

Freedom of information

The Forestry Commission has to release information to comply with the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

This may include the applicant’s:

  • name and address;
  • details of their property;
  • type of grant; or
  • grant value.

The Forestry Commission won’t permit any unwarranted breaches of confidentiality.

European Commission

European Commission legislation (Council Regulation (EC) No. 1306/2013 and Commission Regulation (EC) No. 908/2014) requires the UK to publish details of recipients of rural payments on a single website. The Forestry Commission will publish the agreement holder’s:

  • trading title (the name in which the claim is made)
  • payments for the year broken down into single payment scheme (SPS) and related payments and Rural Development Programme payments
  • local town postcode’s first 3 or 4 letters

The Forestry Commission may also publish additional information on its own website.

7.5 Publicity requirements

Any applicant who receives funding is required to publicise the funding.  

During Implementation of the works

Where the support exceeds €10,000, a poster must be displayed to inform the public about the aim of the operation and the financial support from the European Union. Posters must be minimum A3 in size and must be displayed at a location visible to the public, such as an entrance to a building.  

Where the support for investments exceeds €50,000, an explanatory plaque must be displayed.  Plaques must be a minimum of A3 in size and attached to a picture frame or other robust material.

Where the total costs exceed €500,000 for infrastructure or construction operations, a temporary billboard must be displayed.  Billboards must be a minimum of 2m x 1.5m in size.  The billboard must be made of robust material and weather resistant if located outside.  The draft version must be approved by a Forestry Commission Adviser prior to production and the location confirmed before it is erected.

If you have a website you must mention the contribution of Union funding and include a hyperlink to the European Commission’s Rural Development page.

Any press releases or marketing material such as leaflets and brochures associated with the project must acknowledge the European Union as funder of the project.  Publications must contain a clear reference to the Union’s participation and contain the Union’s emblem.

After completion of the works

Agreement holders must follow these instructions no later than three months after completion of the works (ideally before the final claim is submitted).

A permanent plaque or billboard is required:

  • where the total support exceeds €500,000; or
  • where the operation consists of the purchase of a physical object, the financing of infrastructure or construction operations.

Plaques must be a minimum of A3 in size and attached to a picture frame or other robust material.

The billboard must be a minimum of 2m x 1.5m in size.  The billboard must be made of robust material and weather resistant if located outside.  The draft version must be approved by a Forestry Commission Advisor prior to production and the location confirmed before it is erected.

Plaques and billboards must remain mounted for a minimum of seven years from the date of the final payment of grant, or as notified.

Downloadable logos and text templates will be available on www.gov.uk or can be provided by the Forestry Commission.

Non-compliance with publicity and promotion requirements is a breach of contract and may result in the grant claim being reduced, withdrawn or reclaimed.

7.6 How to complain

Applicants and agreement holders can contact their Forestry Commission Area Director if they think that their application or grant claim has been dealt with unfairly.

Contact the Forestry Commission Director England if the issue still can’t be settled.  The Forestry Commission will send an acknowledgement and then a full response within 4 weeks.

Complaints can be considered by the Forestry Commissioners, on request, if, after the Director has replied, a complainant still considers that an issue is unresolved. These should be sent to the following address;

The Secretary to the Commissioners 
Forestry Commission 
231 Corstorphine Road 
Edinburgh 
EH12 7AT

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The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development