The Tree Health Pilot is being updated to improve the support available to farmers and land managers dealing with tree pest and disease issues. It provides grants, guidance and advice to reduce the impacts of tree pests and diseases and build the resilience of England’s trees, woodlands and forests

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.

Key Changes to Tree Health Pilot

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.

The 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.

Further information

The overall payments process has been revamped to speed up application and payment processes when responding to tree health issues. Grant holders will now be able to apply using a single quote and volume estimate for felling and infrastructure improvements, rather than being required to obtain multiple quotes in advance of any activity. This improvement means land managers will not only receive payments more quickly, but also ensures swift action to reduce any further spread of tree pests and diseases across the country.

The Pilot will now also offer a new advice package to build and support land managers’ knowledge and awareness of tree health issues, biosecurity, and woodland management. It will provide funding for a consultation with a land/forestry agent to assist landowners in creating a biosecurity management plan and training in identifying and dealing with tree health issues. The package – available to anyone with a Statutory Plant Health Notice within the Pilot’s target area – also includes a personal biosecurity kit and signage.

To encourage further participation in the Pilot, the application form and processes have been simplified to reduce the administrative burden on applicants, and a new scheme manual with improved guidance has been published.

The Pilot also helps protect existing trees and the wider environment by not introducing or spreading harmful pests and diseases when landowners restock their land with new trees after felling. These new trees must adhere to the Plant Healthy Management Standard by being sourced from suppliers who have either passed a Ready to Plant assessment or are Plant Healthy accredited. This ensures trees being grown for the future are both biosecure and more resilient to future threats.

Our Policy

As a grower and supplier of Forest Reproductive Material, Maelor Forest Nurseries recognises its responsibility to prevent the introduction and spread of plant pests and diseases. We are committed to the implementation, and continuous improvement of biosecurity practices and controls both on our nursery, and in our supply chain.

Reducing the movement of plants across borders minimises the risk of pest introduction into the UK, therefore we do not import any trees from outside of Great Britain, nor do we buy from nurseries that do so.

Our Plant Health and Biosecurity policies are available here.

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