Woodland Creation grant: Countryside Stewardship (from 1 January 2021)

Annex 2: Woodland creation objectives and woodland design

Find out about woodland creation objectives and woodland design.

Woodland creation objectives and woodland design

To receive grant support the new woodland must contribute to either biodiversity objectives and/or water objectives. You will be asked to describe the objective(s) for woodland creation (for example, planting for water/planting for biodiversity/planting for both objectives) in the Woodland Creation plan section of the Woodland Creation annex (annex 2).

Guidelines on planting for biodiversity objectives

The majority of new woodland should be made up of native species but you can include a proportion of non-native or advancing/honorary species as follows:

  • up to 20% of the species mix can be non-native, and
  • up to 20% of the native species can be ‘advancing’ or ‘honorary’ natives

For more information on these terms, read the Managing ancient and native woodland in England guide.

Protecting, connecting and expanding existing native woodland by planting in close proximity to woodland will receive points through the scoring process (see section 5.5 (Score form). The Forestry Commission will review the location of your woodland creation proposal and its proximity to other native or ancient woodlands to validate the score.

Species choice

Tree species selection for new woodland creation should aim to mimic the appropriate natural woodland community. To achieve this it is essential to select tree species suitable for the site. We recommend that you use the Ecological Site Classification Decision Support System (ESC-DSS). This tool helps you to get an indication of the appropriate National Vegetation Classification (NVC) for the site and associated woodland tree species.

The species you select to create the new woodland must take into account any phytosanitary (plant health) restrictions or measures in place relating to preventing the introduction and spread of invasive tree pests and diseases, as well as the potential impact of existing threats. You must also consider how you can implement appropriate biosecurity measures for the project and site, such as procuring trees for planting from pest- and disease-free areas. You can find information on Tree pests and diseases and biosecurity in Prevent the introduction and spread of tree pests and diseases guides on GOV.UK.

Planting design

Your design of new native woodland should consider how it will accommodate features of interest not suitable for tree planting such as historic monuments or priority habitats. There is guidance on the forest design process in the UK Forestry Standard and Practice Guide on Design techniques for forest management planning. Prepare a site appraisal and concept design plan as this will help the design process. You can find examples of these plans on GOV.UK at: Create woodland: overview.

If your woodland is over 10 hectares you can apply for a Woodland Creation Planning Grant to help with this work - read section 5.1.1.

We recommend you consider innovative tree planting patterns to create a combination of clumps and open space to introduce variation by changing the following characteristics:

  • mixture of species within clumps, distribution and size of clumps
  • spacing between trees within clumps
  • spacing between trees and shrubs in adjacent clumps
  • distance between clumps
  • size and distribution of open areas

The design of new native woodland should consider how the design will be laid out on the ground and what the practical implications are for the trees’ after-care during the establishment and maintenance phases.

Guidelines on planting for water objectives

Appropriately located and designed new woodland can help reduce flood risk and/or diffuse water pollution. The ability of trees to deliver water benefits depends on the location of the new woodland as follows:

  • Wider catchment woodland - planting here can help reduce fertiliser and pesticide usage; protect sensitive soils from disturbance and erosion; increase infiltration and reduce water runoff; and intercept sediment and chemical pollutants in run-off, reducing the delivery of pollutants to watercourses.
  • Riparian woodland - planting along watercourses can create a buffer between rivers and the adjacent land, intercepting and removing nutrient pollutants and sediment in run-off; providing a barrier to pesticide spray drift; protecting river banks from disturbance and erosion; slowing flood flows; and providing shade to reduce thermal stress to fish and other aquatic life.
  • Floodplain woodland - planting here can act as a partial barrier to a river when in flood. This helps to slow flood flows and encourages the deposition of sediment and the retention of pollutants on the floodplain.
  • Cross-slope woodland – planting of smaller areas (typically belts) of woodland (all types) across hill slopes. Cross-slope woodlands can intercept pollutants and reduce rapid runoff from higher land. They can also encourage infiltration and increase the soil’s water storage capacity.

In some circumstances, woodland creation can have a negative impact on water resources and/or water quality. In some parts of England, the high water use of conifers and short rotation energy crops can threaten local water supplies and river flows, while the ability of woodland canopies to ‘scavenge’ acid pollutants from the atmosphere can exacerbate surface water acidification. In others reduced river flows can be detrimental to water-dependent protected sites.

Where the scale and type of woodland planting suggests these might be an issue, you should seek advice from available data published online, the Environment Agency, local water company and/or Natural England and use the advice received to inform the woodland creation proposal.