We're thrilled to announce that together with The Community Forest Trust, we plan to create an exciting new Northern Forest that will comprise over 50 million trees over 25 years. It will stretch from Liverpool across to Hull with the M62 as its spine. This ambitious project has received Government backing this morning.
The project will embrace the major cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Chester and Hull as well as major towns across the north. It will deliver major environmental, social and economic benefits that complement the significant growth, investment and new infrastructure that is planned for the north of England.
The Northern Forest will both accelerate the creation of new woodland and support sustainable management of existing woods right across the area. Many more trees, woods and forests will deliver a better environment for all by: improving air quality in our towns and cities; mitigating flood risk in key catchments; supporting the rural economy through tourism, recreation and timber production; connecting people with nature; and helping to deliver improvements to health and wellbeing through welcoming and accessible local green spaces.
The North of England is ripe to reap the benefits of such a project, with a population in excess of 13 million that is expected to rise by 9% over the next 20 years, while woodland cover is at just 7.6%, below the UK average of 13% and far below the EU average of 44%.
Tree planting rates are dramatically low with tree planting in 2016 being only 700 hectares against the Government’s target of 5,000 hectares a year. There is a need for drastic change.
England is losing tree cover. We need to make sure we are protecting our most important habitats such as ancient woodland as well as investing in new major woodland creation schemes. Existing approaches to increasing woodland cover are stalling and existing delivery mechanisms, such as Community Forests are under threat. A new Northern Forest could accelerate the benefits of community forestry, support landscape scale working for nature, deliver a wide range of benefits, including helping to reduce flood risk, and adapt some of the UK’s major towns and cities to projected climate change. But this must be a joined-up approach. We’ll need to continue to work with Government, and other organisations to harness new funding mechanisms such as those promised in the Clean Growth Strategy to plant extensive areas of woodland to lock up carbon. This will ensure we can make a difference long term.
Paul Nolan, director of the Mersey Forest said: “The Northern Forest will complement the planned £75bn of hard infrastructure investment across the M62 corridor. We have shown that we can lock up over 7 million tonnes of carbon as well as potentially reduce flood risk for 190,000 homes. The Northern Forest can also help to deliver improved health and wellbeing, through programmes such as the Natural Health Service. Community Forests have a long track record of developing partnerships and, most importantly, working with local communities to create new woodlands and manage existing woods in and around our towns and cities. We welcome the government support for the idea and we are looking forward to accelerating the work of the Community Forests across the Northern Forest.”
There are currently five community forests that sit within the proposed area for the Northern Forest including, City of Trees, White Rose Forest, Mersey Forest, HEYwoods and South Yorkshire Forest.
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You can make a real difference to the UK's native trees and woods. Become a member of the Woodland Trust and your support will help us protect our natural heritage for people and wildlife.
Read our follow-up blog, Northern Forest - beyond the headlines.