The Government has pledged that the country will be ‘carbon neutral’ in only three decades, an ambitious policy that requires action from all sectors of the economy. While technological solutions to climate change are expected to make a big difference, tree planting is seen as a major way to soak up carbon and also bring a range of other benefits including ecology, health and flood management.

The last general election saw the political parties falling over themselves to make the most ambitious tree-planting promises, and these have now seen the light of day as a UK-wide policy to plant 30,000 new hectares of trees every year. The science behind the issue is far less clear cut. Trees absorb varying amounts of CO2 at different stages in their life cycle, and the practicalities of planting such a massive area of woodland every year will raise many questions, not least from landowners, who clearly have a much better idea of the issues involved than the politicians making the promises or the civil servants tasked with delivering on them.

If the Government is to achieve anything like its goals, we will need to see a massive shift in policy. Landowners will need to be persuaded to turn huge areas of land, most of it currently presumably farmland, over to trees. Previous grant schemes have simply paid landowners a grant towards planting plus additional payments after five and ten years towards maintenance costs. It is difficult to see how else this could be achieved in the future, and with ELMS on the horizon I assume that a significant part of the funding available will have to be focused on achieving these targets.

A UK-wide policy to plant 30,000 new hectares of trees every year.

It will also be vital to ensure that the ecology of parts of the UK is not trashed by planting the wrong trees in the wrong places; one thinks of current examples of uplands being carpeted with blankets of non-native conifers. Whatever details emerge in due course, I am certain that there will be great incentives over the next few years for landowners to plant trees, but as with all such schemes, taking good advice from experts will be vital, and Batcheller Monkhouse is here to help.

Alex Wilks MRICS FAAV, Partner based in our Pulborough branch. Contact Alex by calling 01798 877555.