The past century has seen a number of severe plant diseases introduced into the UK's forests and gardens, leading to growing concern for the future of native woodland in the face of exotic plant pathogens arriving from abroad. The latest serious threat to cause alarm in the UK is the fungal-like pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, otherwise known as ‘sudden oak death'.
Phytophthora ramorum is threatening Larch woodland in Southern England and Wales. In 2011, almost 10,000 acres of woodland were affected by the Forestry Commission programme designed to stave the spread of the disease. It resulted in the loss of 4 million Larch trees across the region, but further outbreaks continue to cause concern.
The Forestry Commission has three heads of compensation available that are designed to assist with the effects of Statutory Plant Health Notices (SPHN), served to prescribe special measures for infected sites.
Assistance with clearance
Where an SPHN requires the clearing of Larch below the age of marketable maturity (below 25 years), a payment is available of:
- £300 per hectare where the woodland can be cleared with a clearing saw; or
- £1,500 per hectare where the woodland requires mechanised clearing.
Eligibility for this payment will be determined by the Woodland Officer during their site visit when they agree the terms of the SPHN. This payment is not available where the Landowner recovers and sells the timber which has been subject to the SPHN.
Woodland Regeneration Grant supplement
To support replanting after felling that has been required by an SPHN, a supplement of £1,500 per hectare is available. However, this is subject to timing criteria.
Rhododendron has been linked to the proliferation of the disease. Where a Landowner (a) is within a 3km radius of land served with an SPHN and (b) observes the general criteria and conditions for Woodland Improvement Grants as published by the Forestry Commission, they will be eligible to apply for financial assistance to assist with the removal of Rhododendron. This is an 80% contribution to the standard costs of treatment for Rhododendron infestation. Every cloud has a silver lining!