The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 17th April 2023:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Benyon on 21 March (HL6420), what steps they are taking to provide financial (1) assistance, or (2) compensation, to those carrying out Statutory Plant Health Notices.
Lord Benyon (Con): Statutory Plant Health Notices (SPHNs), requiring the felling and/or destruction of infected trees or the containment of susceptible material, are issued to prevent the spread of tree pests and diseases.
It has been the policy of successive governments not to pay compensation for plant health measures, as we believe that resources should be directed at the detection of pests and diseases, risk management and research. Protecting plant health is not an issue for the Government alone. The current arrangements ensure that everyone shares a common understanding of biosecurity and their role and responsibilities.
Individual landowners are responsible for the care and management of trees on their land; however, Government advice and financial support is available. Detailed case-specific advice is available from Forestry Commission Woodland Officers, who can support landowners with undertaking SPHN actions, and the Countryside Stewardship Scheme provides financial support for those affected by certain tree diseases. This includes support for the removal of Phytophthora ramorum infected trees and rhododendron, and grants for restocking following clearance because of this and other diseases (e.g. ash dieback and sweet chestnut blight).
In 2021, we launched a series of pilot grant schemes for land managers, which test and refine different ways to slow the spread of tree pests and diseases and build the resilience of our treescape in the North West, the South East (including London) and the West Midlands. The Forestry Commission will support the felling and restocking of trees as well as providing maintenance payments for restock sites. Land managers are eligible if they have:
- Ash with ash dieback
- Larch with Phytophthora ramorum
- Spruce growing in the high-risk spruce bark beetle area
- Sweet chestnut with either Sweet Chestnut Blight or Phytophthora ramorum
- Oak infested with Oak Processionary Moth
In 2023 we introduced the tree health advice package for all SPHN holders, which aims to build land managers knowledge and awareness of tree health issues and woodland management, through providing funding for forestry/land agent advice and consultation to assist in creating a biosecurity management plan, and funding for biosecurity training and a personal biosecurity kit.
 Statutory Plant Health Notice (SPHN) advice package – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Benyon on 21 March (HL6421), how many grants they made to private landowners for support with the costs described in (1) 2022, (2) 2021, (3) 2020, and (4) 2019.
Lord Benyon: The Government provides grants for private landowners, to help with costs associated with ecological surveys and felling roadside ash with ash dieback, through the Tree Health Grant Pilot. This scheme provides financial and technical support to facilitators to coordinate the removal of dangerous ash trees along roads and public paths for groups of landowners. Support covers the costs and administration of ecological surveys, felling licences, protected species licences (if needed) and road closure permissions, as well as restocking.
Pilots are running in the North West, the South East, London and the West Midlands and landowners are eligible if they have ash with ash dieback along roads or paths. The pilot launched in August 2021 and the full scheme is expected to be launched Nationwide in 2025. The numbers of grants made under this pilot for ash dieback so far are:
- 2022: 4 grants, totalling £157,846.54
Following this low uptake, Defra is working with the Forestry Commission and the Tree Council to review and improve the provision for ash with ash dieback along roads and paths. Defra has also brought together local authorities in the pilot areas to provide feedback on the ash offer and how it can be improved to better suit their needs. Following an independent evaluation report, which included several recommendations from local authorities, Defra has amended the ash offer and this improved offer will be launched across the pilot areas in April.
Local authorities can also apply for funds to restore landscapes ecologically degraded by ash dieback and other pressures through the Local Authority Treescapes Fund (LATF), also launched in 2021. Although local authorities must lead applications to this fund, they are able to work with private landowners and other organisations to deliver recovery planting. Since 2021, over £15m has been awarded through this fund, although the number of private landowners receiving funding is determined by the local authorities administering funding, and Defra do not hold data on this. The grant is currently open for 2023 applications. The numbers of grants made to local authorities under LATF so far are:
- 2021: 42 grants, totalling £8.5m
- 2022: 35 grants, totalling £6.7m
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