Calls for new RDP to boost private forestry

editorial image

A leading forester has called on Forest Service to ensure that the new Rural Development Plan (RDP) delivers in full for Northern Ireland’s private forestry sector.

“A total of circa £17.4m has been made available to fund the various new Forest Schemes,” explained Premier Woodlands’ John Hetherington.

“A proportion of this money will be used to finance existing forestry measures. But there should still be enough money available to facilitate up to 300ha of new tree planting per annum for the next five years.”

He further confirmed that the monies will be made available under the Forestry Expansion Scheme - FES - for areas above 5 hectares ( open now) and the Woodland Expansion Scheme for areas below five hectares (open next year).

“And this is far from an ambitious target,” said Hetherington.

“Tree planting on this scale will simply bring the industry back to where it was a decade ago, in terms of its growth and development.”

The Premier Woodlands’ director pointed out that Farm Minister Michelle O’Neill has repeatedly highlighted the need to encourage the private forestry sector over recent years.

“And this point should be fully recognised by the adjudication panel put in place by Forest Service to assess the applications submitted under the new scheme.”

Hetherington also confirmed that applications for the 2016 planting season must be submitted by the Monday January 4th deadline.

“This will be a tendering process with submitted areas to be planted out under FES extending to a minimum of five hectares per application.

“All grant planting rules must be adhered to. But, again, it is to be hoped that the adjudication panel will use common sense when it comes to assessing all the applications submitted.”

The Premier Woodlands’ director confirmed that the input of a professional forester will be required to submit the applications to the standards required by Forest Service.

“We are already working with clients in this regard. Given the time constraints, the preparatory work required in compiling an application must be completed before the Christmas holidays. Premier Woodlands’ staff members are available to work with clients in this regard.”

For further information, contact Premier Woodlands on (028) 7963 4236.