HL Deb 21 November 1991 vol 532 cc71-2WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

If they are reviewing the farm woodland scheme.

Baroness Trumpington

On 23rd July my right honourable friend the Minister announced that he and the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were undertaking a comprehensive review of the Farm Woodland Scheme and that pending the outcome of the review we would continue to accept applications under the existing rules of the Scheme until 31st March 1992. We have now completed the review and we announced on 6th November, in the context of the Government's public expenditure plans, that a successor to the Farm Woodland Scheme, to be called the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme, will be introduced on 1st April 1992.

The new arrangements will offer increased grants for planting woodland and higher incentives to encourage farmers to convert land now in agricultural use to woodland. The aim is to enhance the farmed landscape and environment and provide a productive land use alternative to agriculture. It will also be very much easier for farmers to understand and simpler to operate than the current scheme. Detailed proposals for the new scheme have been drawn up and are being sent to the main interested organisations for comment. A copy of these proposals have been placed in the Library of the House, and they contain the following main elements:

  • —The administration of establishment grants will be separated from that of annual incentives.
  • —The Forestry Commission will pay the grants for planting and managing trees under the Woodland Grant Scheme, including the Better Land Supplement and Community Woodland Supplement where appropriate, and agriculture departments will pay the annual incentives under the Farm Woodland Premium Scheme. The Department of Agriculture will pay all the grants in Northern Ireland, where the Enclosed Land Supplement is paid instead of the Better Land Supplement.
  • —Annual incentives of up to £250 per hectare will be paid for either 10 or 15 years, depending on the type of woodland created on arable or improved grassland. Annual incentives of £60 per hectare will be paid for trees planted on unimproved grassland in the Less Favoured Areas only.
  • —There will be no limit on the number of applications that can be made, but planting must not, in aggregate, exceed more than 50 per cent. of any individual agricultural unit. In addition WA 72 planting of unimproved grassland must not exceed 40 hectares of any individual agricultural unit.
  • —The definition of "improved grassland" will now be based on the content of "productive" species. This has the advantage of being easily checked by a physical inspection and puts no restriction on the method of grassland improvement.
  • —No quotas or targets will be set for the scheme but it will be subject to cash limits.