Government backs ambitious new Northern Forest plans for 50 million trees

8 January 2018

The Woodland Trust and the Community Forests have won Government support for their plans to create an exciting new Northern Forest that will comprise of over 50 million trees, planted over 25 years and stretching from Liverpool across to Hull with the M62 as its spine.

In an announcement by Environment Secretary Michael Gove, the government has pledged £5.7 million to launch the project, which will be part of the government’s upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan, which sets out how we will be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it.

Spanning over 120 miles across the cities of Bradford, Salford, Hull, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool, the proposed new Northern Forest will help provide natural flood management, boost wildlife habitat for woodland birds and bats and protect ancient woodland areas and iconic species such as the red squirrel, alongside providing a tranquil space for millions of people living in the area and generating more than £2 billion for the country’s economy.  

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 though 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.

It is estimated that the new tree planting would also support action on climate change, by looking up an estimated 8 million tonnes of carbon.

With a population in excess of 13m that is expected to rise by 9% over the next 20 years and with woodland cover at just 7.6%, well below the UK average of 13, and far below the EU average of 44%, the North of England is ripe to reap the benefits of such a project. 

Austin Brady, Director of Conservation, Woodland Trust said:

“England is losing tree cover. Existing approaches to increasing the extent of sustainably managed woods and 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.”

Tony Hothersall, Director, City of Trees:

“The Northern Forest offers an amazing opportunity to link up many of the community based projects across the region. By working together we can enhance the resilience, attractiveness and sustainable economic future of the North, whilst reaping the many benefits trees bring.

“The Northern Forest also means we can really kick start higher levels of tree planting. Planting rates are dramatically low and in 2016 only 700 hectares of trees made it into the ground against the Government’s target of 5000 hectares a year; there is a need for drastic change.”