From the TV presenters of Countryfile to the ever-escalating claims of political parties in the last UK elections, it seems everyone wants to plant more trees. Reasons vary from carbon capture, amenity, and biodiversity to production of usable timber, as do levels of ambition.
Amongst the most widely quoted targets, The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) say that UK needs 30K Ha of new woodland a year to 2050 as part of a suite of land use changes to meet the UKs commitment to become Zero Carbon. This afforestation is predicted to account for the largest share of the forecast £39 Bn cost, the majority of that being spent on land acquisition. This presumes that either we expand the public estate or encourage land acquisition by external investors.
Experience from solar and wind farms suggests that this will be expensive, slow, and unpopular with some existing landowners, particularly farmers. Nonetheless there is considerable pressure on farmers from Brexit and existing financial challenges particularly of upland farming are severe in Wales.
Based upon the above, our approach is to solve two problems together. Woodland creation for a range of benefits, providing the means for farm transformation, while avoiding the expense and social disruption of land acquisition.
Promising lower costs of delivered woodland and a wide range of associated benefits, the approach has much to recommend it, subject to its financial viability.
This report reviews opportunities and challenges through the lens of financial viability.