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Natural Capital update: England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) – what’s involved?

The England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO) is a new scheme administered by the Forestry Commission (FC) which opened for applications on 9 June. The aim of the scheme, which is funded through the Nature for Climate Fund, is to help achieve Net Zero targets by 2050.

What is it?

A £15.9 million sum is available for capital works in the first year of the scheme to incentivise woodland creation projects that store carbon, contribute to nature recovery, improve water quality, reduce flood risks, cool watercourses and encourage ammonia capture on sensitive sites. In addition, other priorities include planting close to settlements and increasing and improving recreational access in new woodlands. The end goal for the scheme is to create 11,000 hectares of additional woodland by 2023-24.

Payment rates

Applications for the criteria-based, competitive scheme are open all year round. The grant will cover the standard costs of capital items for tree planting (up to 2,500 trees per hectare) to a cap of £8,500 per hectare, which is calculated as an average per hectare of the gross area of the scheme, and offers an attractive package for landowners looking to establish new woodlands. This is followed by optional annual maintenance payments of £200 per hectare for 10 years to ensure establishment of the new woodland. Contributions towards forestry infrastructure are also available, which can be up to 100% of the costs where recreational access is proposed. 

What’s new?

The main difference between the EWCO and the existing Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation and Maintenance Grant is the introduction of Additional Contributions that are being offered with the EWCO. This is further optional funding aimed at delivering public benefits through woodland design and location. These focus on six public benefits: nature recovery, water quality, flood risk, riparian buffers, close to settlements and access. They are one-off payments with varying rates per hectare which can be claimed with the final claim for capital works. As the Additional Contributions are optional and there to support public benefits, applicants are encouraged to seek out private finance from other ecosystem service markets instead.

In addition to this, the EWCO makes no Additional Contributions for carbon, but would strongly encourage applicants to fill out the part of their application in order to calculate the viability of getting their new woodland schemes registered with the Woodland Carbon Code. This offers landowners the ability to register the carbon generated from the new planting, and apply for the Woodland Carbon Guarantee (WCaG) which provides further incentives for accelerating woodland planting in England.

Additional Contributions provide public funding for public benefits, but the scheme encourages applicants to seek out private finance from ecosystem service markets where they can. This allows applicants to enter a market, which like any, has the opportunity for potential growth above the rates offered by the EWCO. The Woodland Carbon Code is an example of an established private ecosystem service market. This clarifies why there is no Additional Contribution funding for carbon, as it is already gaining momentum in the private market beyond the rates of payments that are typically being offered in other Additional Contributions within the grant.

This allows for targeted public funding in areas where a private market are not yet established. As other ecosystem service markets around Natural Capital and Biodiversity Net Gain establish in the coming years, the EWCO can alter and adjust which areas to offer public funding for, where necessary, during a period of change in private markets in order to maximise public benefits.

Natural Capital: Galbraith’s expert advisers guide our clients in realising value in all land uses – by assessing and measuring natural assets, furthering opportunities in biodiversity net gain, and ensuring stakeholders are rewarded fully for their investment in and contribution to delivering ecosystem services and net-zero outcomes.