HC Deb 23 March 1988 vol 130 cc167-8W
Mr. Quentin Davies

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what proposals he has for revised planting grants following the changes in tax treatment of commercial forestry announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on 15 March.

Mr. Needham

As from 5 April 1988 my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is introducing in Northern Ireland a new woodland grant scheme.

The Northern Ireland forestry grant scheme and broadleaved woodland grant scheme have been closed to new applications from 15 March 1988, and will be replaced on 5 April 1988 by a single grant scheme, to be known as the woodland grant scheme.

The scheme will apply to the establishment and restocking of broadleaved, conifer and mixed woodlands, whether by planting or by natural regeneration, and to the rehabilitation of neglected woodland under 20 years of age. It will also cover planting done under the farm woodland scheme.

The objectives of the scheme are:

  • to encourage timber production;
  • to provide jobs in and increase the economic potential of rural areas with declining agricultural employment and few alternative sources of economic activity;
  • to provide an alternative to agricultural production and thereby assist in the reduction of agricultural surpluses;
  • to enhance the landscape, to create new wildlife habitats and to provide for recreation and sporting uses in the longer term;
  • to encourage the conservation and regeneration of existing forests and woodlands.

The rates of grant will be increased substantially, and will be as set out in the following table:

Rates of Grant
Area approved for planting or regeneration Conifers Broadleaves
(hectares) £ per hectare £ per hectare
Area band
0.25–0.90 1,005 1,575
1.00–2.90 880 1,375
3.00–9.90 795 1,175
10 and over 615 975

These rates of grant are generally £375 per hectare higher than those under the forestry grant scheme and the broadleaved woodland grant scheme, but the increase for broadleaved trees planted or regenerated in mixed woodlands will be substantially larger.

The rates of grant for conifer planting eligible under the farm woodland scheme and for short rotation coppice will be as set out in the following table:

Area approved for planting (hectares) Rate of grant associated with FWS Conifers £ per hectare
Area band
0.25–0.90 630
1.00–2.90 505
3.00–9.90 420
10 and over 240

Broadleaved planting associated with the farm woodland scheme will, however, be eligible for the new broadleaved woodland grants.

For new planting an existing arable or improved grassland of less than 10 years of age which is undertaken outside the farm woodland scheme, there will be a supplement of £200 per hectare.

Apart from the increased rates of grant and the special supplement for planting on better land, the scheme will have a number of important features: the simplicity of a scheme which replaces two schemes with different conditions, and which covers all forms of planting, regeneration and rehabilitation of woodlands; a substantial differential in favour of broadleaves; all broadleaved planting, whether it be on its own or in mixture, will attract the same rates of grant; environmental objectives and provision that will apply to all types of woodland; all types of natural regeneration will now be eligible for the first instalment of grant-aid at the time the preparatory work is carried out; grants for the rehabilitation of derelict woodlands under 20 years of age will now include conifer and mixed woodlands; grants for new planting and restocking will be paid in three instalments over 10 years. For conifers as well as for broadleaves, the second and third instalments will attract the rates of grant applicable when they fall due; grant bands will be determined by the total area approved for planting or regeneration under the application and not, as was the case under the forestry grant scheme, by the size of the woodland of which such planting or regeneration might form a part.

I am sure that the announcement of this new scheme, with its greatly improved rates of grant and wide-ranging objectives, will serve to underline the Government's commitment to the sensitive yet vigorous expansion of forestry in Northern Ireland.