Today I am announcing that I intend to maintain levels of woodland planting that we fund in England through pillar 2 of the common agricultural policy, rural development, in 2014-15.
Following negotiation of the EU rules governing the transition from the old to the new common agriculture policy and clarification from the European Commission of their impact, we can now approve new applications for tree planting grants in 2014.
We will therefore continue processing existing applications for woodland planting grants made by 31 December 2013. If this fails to deliver a level of funded planting in line with the overall annual rate under the existing rural development programme we will look at inviting further applications later in 2014 before the new programme comes into effect.
We also intend as part of the new rural development programme to offer tree-planting grants in 2015 in advance of new environmental land management agreements coming into effect in January 2016. We will work with interested parties on what this could involve before we submit the programme to the Commission for approval.
The total Government investment in creating and managing woodland under the rural development programme in 2014-15 will amount to £30 million. This consists of £6 million on new planting and £24 million on woodland management, including maintaining more recent woodland planting. This will fund the creation of 2,000 hectares of woodland, equivalent to about 4 million trees, and the protection or improvement of 200,000 hectares of existing woodland. It will help with extending woodland cover to 12% of the country by 2060.
I remain committed to protecting, improving and expanding England’s woodland assets as set out in the Government forestry and woodlands policy statement of January 2013.