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This blog post was published under the 2015-2024 Conservative Administration

Preparing for the Tree Health pilot

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Payments to improve tree health

Trees give us oxygen. They store carbon. They help the soil and provide a habitat for wildlife.  

For these reasons and many more, protecting them from pests and diseases is important. You might remember we blogged about the economic and social benefits a few months ago. 

What we’ve heard from tree and woodland managers is that they don’t feel well enough equipped or have access to the tools they require to respond to pests and diseases to minimise further spread and damage. 

Whether this means help to identify tree health issues or the money to carry out necessary actions, we have learned that a greater level of support for land managers is vital to keep England’s trees and woodland healthy.  

With tree and woodland managers, we are designing a new range of grants as part of a future Tree Health scheme that will replace and expand the existing Countryside Stewardship Woodland Tree Health grants. 

The full Tree Health scheme will launch in 2024. Ahead of its launch we’re going to test and refine our ideas through a pilot. We will test grants for felling or treating diseased trees and restocking following diseased tree removal. This will mainly be for land managers who were not eligible under the Countryside Stewardship Tree Health grants, such as managers of small woodlands or trees outside of woodland.

We will also be testing the provision of advice and guidance which is being designed for the pilot. 

The Forestry Commission will partner with us to deliver the pilot. Then, over the next 3 years we will make 100 agreements with woodland owners and land managers in London, the south-east, the north-west and West Midlands who have an eligible tree pest or disease confirmed by the Forestry Commission on their land.  

These agreements will cover a wide range of the new co-designed grants we plan to offer and will enable us to test policy in the real world so we can adapt it to meet user needs.  

We’ve continued our social science research project Behaviours for a Resilient Treescape, led by Forest Research. As part of this work, we released an online survey in February to collect the opinions of woodland and tree owners, forestry and land agents, and professional arboriculturists across England.  

We had over 400 responses to the survey, helping us to shape the structures of support. 

Additionally, we held workshops which proved an effective way to talk to potential scheme users and understand the problems they face with their woodlands and trees.  

Our co-design research showed that advice and guidance are crucial requirements to encourage action to deal with tree pests and diseases.  

Also, there is a need for awareness-raising about tree health as an issue as well as identification training for tree pests or diseases. In response to this, we will pilot the use of training webinars.  

Our co-design approach will continue and as such we will work closely with pilot agreement holders during the scheme to understand what’s working and what isn’t. 

Stay up-to-date 

We plan to publish information about who can take part in the scheme and specific scheme guidance a few weeks ahead of applications opening in August. Subscribe to Future Farming to keep informed. 

You can also subscribe to Defra in the Media and the Defra e-alert. And, of course, if you have anything thoughts or questions, do comment below. 

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  1. Comment by Joey posted on

    "London, the south-east, the north-west and West Midlands"

    Why only those areas?

    • Replies to Joey>

      Comment by joeharrison1 posted on

      Hi Joey,

      A great question. Given the size of the pilot, our decision to focus on these locations was based on where it was felt that the Forestry Commission could best deliver the scheme and where the targeted trees and their associated pests and diseases are likely to be found.

      There will be more information about eligibility in the scheme guidance which will be published in August.

      Best wishes,

  2. Comment by Mrs E Cartmell posted on

    I hope the scheme will broaden its remit to consider climate damage, the recent (past years, not this year) has had a damaging effect on a number of trees, especially concerning is one 200+ year old oak.
    Separately both a fully mature oak and a mature sycamore appear to be dying on one side, both on the east-facing side, no explanation has yet been found.
    All help and support for trees gratefully accepted,

  3. Comment by joeharrison1 posted on

    Hi Elizabeth

    Thank you for taking the time to comment, we really appreciate hearing from those who have seen first-hand the effects climate change, and pests & diseases can have on our trees.

    While the focus of this pilot is on resilience to tree pests and diseases, the broader concept of resilience requires that actions we take future-proof our treescape against a range of threats including climate change.

    Pests and diseases do not operate in isolation. Climate change, extreme weather events, pollution, land use change and invasive species can all have an impact on our environment and increase the susceptibility of our trees to pests and diseases, which is why we published the Tree Health Resilience Strategy in 2018 which is our commitment to improving the resilience of the treescape (link below).

    This is where the Tree Health Pilot comes in! Through this pilot we hope to generate the learning required to launch a national scheme in 2024 that encourages action against tree pests & diseases across England.

    It’s also worth mentioning one of our key partners, Forest Research, who are internationally renowned for the provision of science, research, evidence, data and services in support of sustainable forestry. Their research partly focuses on improving our understanding of how woodlands will respond to the many environmental drivers associated with climate change, directly feeding into Defra's policy development, which you can read more about at the second link below.

    I hope this gives you some insight into the efforts going on within Defra to protect our treescape!

    All the best,
    Joe Harrison

    Tree Health Resilience Strategy:

    Forest Research climate change:


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