The case for more trees in Greater Manchester

27 July 2015

Is there potential to substantially increase woodlands in Greater Manchester? We explore how a report on this issue by Red Rose Forest, in partnership with the Oglesby Trust, led to the birth of the City of Trees Movement.

Trees deliver a wide-range of benefits for people and communities and are an essential part of Greater Manchester's future. As well as being aesthetically valuable, trees provide a home for wildlife, reduce flooding and provide opportunities for education and skills development. They also build resilience, helping Greater Manchester in the fight against climate change by locking-up carbon and keeping our air clean.

The arguments for more tree-planting in the region are clear, however some people assert that woodland creation is not a priority - that it is expensive and utilises space that could be used to build homes.

Recognising this conflict, The Oglesby Charitable Trust (OCT) partnered with Red Rose Forest, the community forest for Greater Manchester, to look at the potential for additional woodland creation.

OCT was set up to support activities in the North West of England to further the well being of the region and its people. The trust is passionate about tree-planting, and believes that trees are important for Greater Manchester. OCT tasked Red Rose Forest with answering a question - is there potential to substantially increase woodlands in Greater Manchester?

Red Rose Forest had previously looked at this for 6 districts in 2000, but this was an excellent opportunity to look at it again, for the whole of Greater Manchester, with more detailed and more up-to-date information, including the Greater Manchester tree audit, an extensive assessment of existing data on trees in Manchester.

Red Rose Forest set out to explore and analyse the potential for growing more trees and the importance of existing woodland in Greater Manchester and produced the City of Trees Woodland Potential Study.

From this report and in partnership with the Oglesby Trust – the City of Trees movement was born - a critical campaign to double the tree cover in Greater Manchester and, within a generation, plant a tree for every man woman and child that lives here.

A City of Trees will mean great things for the region. In addition to the benefits listed above, street tree-planting can also increase property values by up to 9% and reduce noise levels by 6-8 decibels, helping to create a calmer, greener environment that is proven to reduce stress levels.

The City of Trees Woodland Potential Study purports that, '43% of Greater Manchester could be planted with new woodland - utilising land where there are currently no or few significant non-financial constraints.'

The goal is to plant 3 million trees across Greater Manchester over the next two decades and bring 2,000 hectares of existing, unmanaged woodland into a productive, beneficial state.

So, how will this be achieved? According to the study, the development of a City of Trees requires a, 'coming together of companies, organisations and individuals into a strong and dynamic movement.' This will involve local authorities, woodland owners, private sector members, developers and members of the public, contributing their unique skills to help transform the city.

The programme will include tree and woodland culture campaigns, to promote the importance of woodlands through a series of projects and events, like the Heritage Trees campaign, a four-year project that aims to celebrate, record and protect our local tree heritage.

The programme will also focus on community woodland group development, an initiative to support community groups to take on the long-term management of their local green spaces.

The study will hopefully prove to be an effective spring board for tree-planting in the region and spread the message that, 'there has never been a better time for the Manchester city region to step up and ensure that its environment is as strong as its economies and communities...Manchester is a city region ready for more trees!'