The EWCO Fast Track Explained

In an ambitious move to boost tree planting and reforestation efforts across England, the Forestry Commission, in partnership with DEFRA, has introduced a Fast Track option for the England Woodland Creation Offer (EWCO). This initiative aims to streamline the application process for landowners and land managers, enabling quicker implementation of woodland projects. With the UK's commitment to achieving Net Zero by 2050 and enhancing biodiversity, the EWCO Fast Track plays a crucial role in supporting these environmental goals.

What is the EWCO Fast Track?

The EWCO Fast Track is a newly introduced option designed to expedite the approval process for woodland creation applications. This initiative specifically targets projects with at least 90% of the land located on low sensitivity land—areas less suitable for food production but ideal for tree planting. By focusing on these low sensitivity areas, the Fast Track aims to balance agricultural productivity with environmental conservation.

Benefits of the EWCO Fast Track

The primary advantage of the EWCO Fast Track is the significantly reduced processing time. Applications submitted through the Fast Track can be processed within 12 weeks (60 working days), provided they are complete, compliant with the UK Forestry Standard (UKFS), and include all necessary information from the outset. This rapid approval process allows landowners to move swiftly from planning to planting, ensuring that new woodlands can be established in a timely manner.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the EWCO Fast Track, applications must meet the following criteria:

  1. Low Sensitivity Land: At least 90% of the proposed woodland area must be on low sensitivity land. This includes areas less suited for agricultural production, ensuring that the best farmland remains available for food cultivation.
  2. Complete Application: Applications must be thorough and complete, providing all required documentation and evidence. This includes a detailed Woodland Creation Plan (WCP), biosecurity certifications, and compliance with the UKFS.
  3. UKFS Compliance: The proposed woodland project must adhere to the guidelines and requirements set forth by the UK Forestry Standard. This ensures sustainable and responsible forestry practices.

Application Process

The application process for the EWCO Fast Track follows these steps:

  1. Register with Rural Payments: Obtain a Single Business Identifier (SBI) and ensure that your land is registered.
  2. Prepare a Woodland Creation Plan (WCP): Outline the objectives, tree species, planting density, and compliance with the UKFS. Include considerations for climate change resilience and public access.
  3. Complete the EWCO Application Form: Provide all necessary information, including biosecurity evidence, maps, and consents. Ensure that your application is comprehensive and meets all criteria.
  4. Submit Your Application: Send the completed application to the Forestry Commission for review.

Once submitted, the Forestry Commission will assess the application against the Fast Track criteria. If the application meets all requirements, it will be processed within 12 weeks.

Financial Incentives

The recent enhancements to the EWCO have significantly increased the payment rates to better support farmers and land managers. Here’s the updated financial structure:

  • Capital Costs: Standard costs remain up to £10,200 per hectare.
  • Annual Maintenance Payments: Increased from £350 to £400 per hectare per year for 15 years, recognizing the importance of caring for new trees.
  • Infrastructure Funding: Support for creating and maintaining access routes, recreational facilities, and other necessary infrastructure.
  • Additional Contributions: Now up to £11,600 per hectare, a 45% increase from the previous maximum of £8,000. This can rise to £12,700 in stackable payments if the land is also eligible for the new Low Sensitivity Land Payment.

Breakdown of Additional Contributions

  • Recreation/Access: Increased from £2,200 to £3,700 per hectare.
  • Landscape/Urban: Increased from £500 to £600 per hectare.
  • Riparian: Increased from £1,600 to £2,500 per hectare.
  • Water Quality: Increased from £400 to £500 per hectare.
  • Flood Risk Management: Doubled from £500 to £1,000 per hectare.
  • Nature Recovery: Introduced a new premium payment of £3,300 per hectare for planting or natural colonisation of highly biodiverse woodlands next to ancient woodland.

Enhancing Recreational Access

One of the key benefits of the EWCO Fast Track is its support for enhancing recreational access. Increased payments for recreational access mean that landowners can develop woodlands that not only contribute to environmental goals but also offer public benefits. By creating spaces where people can connect with nature, landowners can foster community well-being and promote a greater appreciation for the natural environment. The enhanced payment rates, rising from £2,200 to £3,700 per hectare, reflect the government's commitment to making woodlands accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Biosecurity and Sustainability

A critical component of the EWCO grant is ensuring biosecurity and sustainability. Applicants must source plants from certified suppliers and adhere to biosecurity standards to prevent the spread of pests and diseases. The grant also encourages sustainable practices in woodland management, aligning with the UKFS guidelines.

Fast Track and Scoring System

To streamline the application process, the EWCO offers a Fast Track option for certain projects and employs a scoring system to evaluate applications based on their potential public benefits and alignment with the grant’s objectives. Higher scores are given to projects that demonstrate significant contributions to climate change mitigation, nature recovery, and public access.

The scoring system also considers the cumulative benefits of the proposed woodlands. Projects that enhance biodiversity, improve water quality, mitigate flood risks, and provide recreational access are prioritized. This comprehensive approach ensures that funded projects deliver maximum environmental and social benefits.

Practical Tips for a Successful EWCO Application

To maximize your chances of success with the EWCO Fast Track, consider the following tips:

  1. Thorough Planning: Invest time in developing a detailed Woodland Creation Plan that outlines your objectives, species selection, and compliance with the UKFS. Consider the long-term sustainability and maintenance of your woodland.
  2. Complete Documentation: Ensure that your EWCO application is comprehensive and includes all required documentation, such as maps, biosecurity evidence, and consents. Missing information can delay the processing of your application.
  3. Consult Experts: Seek advice from forestry experts or consultants to help you navigate the application process and ensure that your project meets all criteria.
  4. Focus on Public Benefits: Highlight the public benefits of your project, such as enhanced recreational access, biodiversity gains, and flood risk mitigation. These elements can strengthen your application and improve its score.
  5. Stay Informed: Keep up-to-date with any changes or updates to the EWCO scheme by regularly checking the official government website and subscribing to relevant newsletters.


The EWCO Fast Track is a game-changer for woodland creation in England, offering a streamlined application process and enhanced financial incentives. By targeting low sensitivity land, the Fast Track ensures that tree planting efforts complement agricultural productivity, supporting the UK's environmental and climate goals.

For landowners and land managers looking to make a positive impact, the EWCO Fast Track presents an unparalleled opportunity. Embrace this chance to contribute to a greener future and explore the benefits of the EWCO Fast Track today. By understanding the ins and outs of the EWCO grant and following best practices for a successful application, you can turn your woodland creation dreams into reality, contributing to the UK's environmental goals and creating a legacy for future generations.