Guidance

Woodland Carbon Fund

Find out what’s involved and how to apply for funding to support woodland creation and increase carbon storage.

Landowners, land managers, local authorities and public bodies can apply to the Forestry Commission for support to plant large-scale productive woodland under the Woodland Carbon Fund (WCF). Up to 40% of the remaining fund will be made available to public bodies and the remaining 60% will be available for applications from private owners. Public bodies other than Forestry England are now also eligible to include the second stage payment (see below) in their applications.

The scheme offers capital funding for the creation of new productive woodland for carbon sequestration. This includes the planting of trees and costs of protection items including tree guards, fencing and gates. You can also get funding for the installation of forest roads and recreational infrastructure.

A one-off capital payment of £1,000 per hectare is available in year 5 following successful establishment. This payment will not be available on land owned by Forestry England, but is available on land owned by other public authorities including land owned by the State, the Crown, County Councils, District Councils and Local Authorities.

Applicants to the Woodland Carbon Fund may still be eligible to receive funding under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) for the length of the WCF agreement, subject to meeting BPS eligibility criteria. The standard length of a WCF agreement is 5 years, however, where an agreement includes a second stage payment the agreement length extends to 10 years.

You can apply for the WCF for land under multiple ownership. You’ll need the landowner’s written permission if you don’t own the land and the Forestry Commission may ask to see your tenancy agreement to confirm your land management responsibilities.

If you’ve been ordered to plant woodland as part of a planning consent you cannot apply to the WCF for grant support to fund the new planting.

The fund is open to new applications until March 2021, with all claims due by 31 March 2022.

How it works

You can get capital funding for:

  • planting trees
  • protection items - tree guards, fencing and gates
  • forest roads for maintenance access and infrastructure that encourages public use of the woodland
  • £1,000 per hectare in year 5 after you’ve successfully established your woodland

There are 2 different funding rates you can apply for:

  • standard planting rate - this applies to most proposals (unless your land is in ‘priority places’) and you get 80% of the standard costs for planting and establishment capital items, capped at £6,800 per hectare
  • priority places planting rate - this applies to proposals near to urban areas, which give access to the public on foot, and you get 100% of the standard costs for planting and establishment capital items, capped at £8,500 per hectare

See the Woodland Carbon Fund: priority places in England map (PDF, 4.06MB, 1 page) to work out which areas in England qualify for a higher rate of funding. You can claim the higher rate if:

  • 30% or more of your site falls within a priority place area in England
  • you agree to provide access to the public by foot for 30 years

In addition to planting trees, you can get funding for:

  • added recreational features such as footpaths - paid at 80% of actual costs (100% in priority places), capped at 10% of the total cost of your application
  • forest roads and tracks that support access so you can successfully establish, maintain and harvest woodland - paid at 40% of actual costs, capped at 10% of the total cost of your application.

Use the Woodland Carbon Fund Grant Calculator to work out costs and possible funding.

Find out if you’re eligible

The land must meet the following size thresholds:

  • 10 hectares or more to be planted as woodland
  • either one continuous standalone block of 10 hectares or more, or at least 10 hectares of new planting in stands that are no more than 50 meters from either one another or, else from existing woodland, where the objective of the new planting clearly remains to establish productive woodland
  • for any given block of woodland, integral open space is no more than 20 meters wide, no more than 0.5 hectares in extent, and completely surrounded by woodland or forest

The Forestry Commission may consider applications for grant support that includes stands that are slightly more than 50 meters from existing woodland or other stands contained in the application, where we are confident that the application as a whole covers a single management area of woodland.

We may also consider applications for grant support for additional blocks of woodland creation in landscape-scale projects as long as the blocks are each at least 5 hectares in area (standalone) or a total of 5 hectares if connecting or expanding existing woodland.

If your proposal includes more than 20% integral open space (subject to the thresholds above) then all per-hectare payment caps and per-hectare payment rates will be calculated using the net planting area of your proposal plus 20% of the gross area.

Tree species

You must include productive tree species on 70% of the net planted area in your woodland design, including:

  • minimum general yield class (GYC) 6 - broadleaves
  • GYC10 - pine
  • GYC12 - other conifers

Where variation in conditions across your site mean that this is not possible, the Forestry Commission has the discretion to allow less than 70% productive species in your application in order to allow your planting project to meet the constraints set by your site. We will not make exceptions based on landowner objectives where these are not consistent with carbon sequestration and productive growth.

You can find country-specific advice on which tree species to plant in the UKFS publication. Find further information on species and provenance choice for adapting England’s woodlands from Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission.

Forest Research also offers a tool to help you select species ecologically suited to your site. Find out about the Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System (ESC-DSS).

You can’t apply for funding if you plan to:

  • create short-rotation forestry
  • create short-rotation coppice
  • plant fast-growing tree species such as eucalypts

Planting density

You must plant 2,000 stems per hectare minimum on a net area basis.

Funding to develop your proposal

Before you apply to the WCF you may want to consider using the Woodland Creation Planning Grant (WCPG). The WCPG provides funding to prepare a UKFS-compliant Woodland Creation Design Plan – this plan can subsequently be used to support a WCF application. You should not submit an application to WCF at the same time as submitting an application to WCPG – if you do, your WCF application will be placed on hold until you have completed at least stage 1 of WCPG.

How to apply

You can apply year round and the Forestry Commission aims to respond to your application within 3 months.

Submit an application

You need to submit an application form, grant calculator and map showing the location of the capital items that are included in your application to the WCF scheme administrator at the Forestry Commission. Send an electronic copy of your completed application form, grant calculator and map to: wcf@forestrycommission.gov.uk

Along with your application form you need to submit one of the following:

  1. a completed WCPG stage 1 checklist and supporting documents including at least one map showing features of your site and any constraints – find out more about WCPG
  2. a draft UKFS-compliant woodland creation design plan
  3. a completed UKFS-compliant woodland creation design plan
  4. confirmation that Forestry Commission England has given an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening decision that the proposal does not require an EIA, or should consent be required, confirmation that the consent to plant has been awarded

If you submit your application form with either a WCPG stage 1 checklist or a draft woodland creation design plan (bullet point 1 or 2) then funding from the WCF can only be allocated in principle. This decision will be made within 3 months of the application being received. A final agreement will be issued once a completed woodland creation design plan has been prepared and the subsequent EIA process completed – in this case the EIA process will be completed by the Forestry Commission as part of the WCF grant process. Following this a funding decision will be made within 1 month.

If you submit an application form with an EIA screening decision that the proposal does not require an EIA – or should consent be required, confirmation that the consent to plant has been awarded – you will receive a decision on the award of WCF funding within 1 month.

Maps

You must submit a map showing the location of all the capital items included in your application form. If you apply with either a WCPG stage 1 checklist or a draft woodland creation design plan (bullet point 1 or 2) then funding can only be allocated in principle. An updated and final map will be required before a final funding decision is made.

If you are applying for a discretionary payment for recreational access features such as footpaths, or if you are applying for the enhanced priority places planting rate, you will be required to provide an additional ‘access map’. This map must show the location of all routes providing permissive access to the public through the proposed woodland, as well as the location of all signage. You must also provide draft signage to be approved by the Forestry Commission.

Specifications, quotes and permissions

You may receive an in principle funding decision before all relevant specifications, quotes and permissions have been submitted to the Forestry Commission, but final decisions will not be given until after they have been submitted and accepted by the Forestry Commission.

If you are applying for a discretionary payment for forest roads or tracks, or for recreational access features such as footpaths, you must provide a specification for the works along with at least three quotes from contractors for undertaking the works. Each quote must clearly show the net quote amount, excluding VAT.

You may require permissions or consents for your proposal – the Forestry Commission will advise you when you apply. For example, if you are applying for a discretionary payment for a forest road or track, you may require consent from your Local Planning Authority. You must submit a copy of the Local Planning Authority’s advice and any permits to the Forestry Commission before you can receive a final funding decision.

If you decide to appoint an agent to apply for funding on your behalf you must complete a Forestry Commission agent authority form to give your consent.

(This is not the same form that you would complete to appoint an agent to apply for Countryside Stewardship: woodland support.)

Funding decision

Applications will be assessed by a panel consisting of representatives from Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency, who will evaluate applications to ensure they meet the criteria of the fund.

Make an appeal

Find out how to make a complaint or appeal.

Terms and conditions

Read the Terms and Conditions for the Woodland Carbon Fund (PDF, 393KB, 16 pages)

Extra income from selling carbon

If your project is not cost-effective with the Woodland Carbon Fund grant alone, you might be able to earn further income by selling carbon credits from your project. In order to do this you need to register with the Woodland Carbon Code within 2 years from the start of planting. Validation/verification to this standard provides assurance of the carbon savings and access to the voluntary carbon market.

Find out more in the guidance on woodland creation, including more information on the Woodland Carbon Code and an overview of how to manage woodland once it’s created.

Contact the Forestry Commission (England)

You can get help developing maps or completing the application form from the Forestry Commission: wcf@forestrycommission.gov.uk

Published 9 July 2018
Last updated 5 November 2019 + show all updates
  1. The Woodland Carbon Fund terms and conditions have been updated.
  2. Update to the eligibility of public bodies and extension of the fund application window.
  3. Update to include a revised application form and grant calculator.
  4. First published.