NORTHERN IRELAND'S Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs has announced the opening of the third phase of its Forest Expansion scheme.

The scheme, which is intended to encourage and support landowners who wish to plant their own woodland, is funded through the Rural Development Programme, part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and DAERA itself.

Chief executive of the NI Forest Service, Malcolm Beatty said: “The opening of the third phase of our Forest Expansion scheme is good news for landowners and the environment. It will provide support for farmers and landowners to plant woodlands of five hectares or larger this coming winter.

“To date the scheme has provided £1 million of grant aid to support over 400 hectares of new woodland, which will make a valuable contribution to the economy through production of wood for processing, enhancing the landscape, providing places for people to enjoy and an important habitat for wildlife.”

Successful applicants to the Forest Expansion Scheme will receive up to 100% of eligible establishment costs and annual premia for a 10-year period. But the scheme is competitive, meaning that projects must conform to the UK Forestry Standard and that it favours bids with lower costs and which are part financed by the applicant.

Applications are scored higher by incorporating into their woodland plans services such as public access, storage of forest carbon to mitigate climate change, better wildlife habitat, larger woodland scale and planting on land with potential to mitigate flood risk.

Applications must be submitted to NI Forest Service by the afternoon of Friday September 29. Further details are available on the DAERA website at