A massive Northern Forest of 50 million trees, stretching from Liverpool to Hull with the M62 as its spine, has received government backing today, (7 January 2018).
The project, by The Woodland Trust and The Community Forest Trusts, over the next 25 years, will encompass the cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds, Chester and Hull as well as major towns across the north.
It’s been proposed to deliver major environmental, social and economic benefits to complement the significant growth, investment and new infrastructure planned for the north of England.
With an increasing population in excess of 13 million expected to rise by nine per cent over the next 20 years and woodland cover at 7.6 per cent below the national average of 13 per cent, far from the EU average of 44 per cent, the north is due to reap benefits from such a project.
Tree planting rates in the country are drastically low – in 2016 only 700 hectares were planted against the government’s target of 5,000 per year, with the Woodland Trust saying ‘there’s a need for drastic change’.
Austin Brady, Director of Conservation, Woodland Trust said:
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.
The North of England is perfectly suited to reap the benefits of a project on this scale, but this must be a joined-up approach.
We’ll need to continue to work with the 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’ve shown we can lock up over 7m tonnes of carbon as well as potentially reduce flood risk for 190,000 homes.
Prime Minister Theresa May made a commitment to the project on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show:
It’s going to take time to plant the millions of trees that will be needed in order to develop this national forest, so it’s not a short term thing that’s going to happen, but the commitment is there.
Let’s hope the forest is seen through to completion.