The Tree Health Pilot is today (Tuesday 7 February) being updated to improve the support available to farmers and land managers dealing with tree pest and disease issues.
The innovative Pilot, running between 2021 and 2024, provides land managers with grants, guidance and advice to reduce the impacts of tree pests and diseases and build the resilience of England’s trees, woodlands and forests ahead of the roll-out of a future nationwide Tree Health Scheme. The Pilot is currently available in London, the South East, the North West and the West Midlands.
Following a successful first year, in which more than 80 expressions of interest were received, Defra has worked with the Forestry Commission to evaluate user feedback and make several key changes to the scheme. These include simplifying the payments process, introducing higher payment rates, implementing a new advice package, and improving guidance.
In line with changes being made across the Countryside Stewardship and the England Woodland Creation Offer schemes, payment rates for standard capital cost items – which are one-off projects such as installing deer fencing and tree shelters – are increasing. Maintenance rates, which help ensure newly planted trees are growing healthily, will increase from £300 to £350 per hectare per year for trees planted in woodland. And to help cover coordination costs for group applications, the fee paid to the group facilitator will rise to £24 per hour.
Today’s announcement follows the publication of the government’s Environmental Improvement Plan, which committed to the publication of a revised Tree Health Resilience Strategy to improve the baseline diversity, health and condition of our trees, woods and forests, and drive the long-term changes needed to adapt to climate change and disease pressures such as ash dieback.
Chief Plant Health Officer Nicola Spence said:
This Pilot supports land managers to deal quickly and effectively with tree health issues. By funding innovative methods to fell and restock diseased trees, for instance, using skylines or horse loggers to reach larch trees in remote areas, and encouraging group collaboration to deal more efficiently with roadside ash – it ensures a comprehensive and targeted approach to better protecting our trees.
We have been able to gather meaningful feedback for the design of our future Tree Health Scheme, with a greater focus on tailoring support to land managers where most needed and equipping them with practical tools to reduce and manage future threats in order to create more resilient treescapes.
Forestry Commission Chair, Sir William Worsley, said:
From lone trees to entire woodlands, a thriving treescape is not only fundamental to our health and wellbeing, but crucial for combatting climate change, improving biodiversity and growing local economies.
These improvements will ensure greater participation in the scheme, better knowledge of the issues around tree health, and swifter action to tackle pests and diseases – all helping to protect our trees now and for future generations.
The Tree Health Pilot covers five tree types, including ash affected by ash dieback, oak trees infested with Oak Processionary Moth, and sweet chestnut infected by sweet chestnut blight. Plants and trees deliver around £15.7 billion each year in social, environmental and economic benefits across England so reducing pest and disease risks is crucial in protecting these vital national assets and the environmental benefits they provide.
The Tree Health Pilot is part of a focus on protecting and enhancing the environment alongside producing food sustainably and will inform our future Tree Health Scheme being rolled out through our landmark Environmental Land Management schemes.