Cheshire communities to be included in new 'Northern Forest' containing 50 million trees

Reporter:

Matt Warner

CHESTER and Ellesmere Port are to included in a new forest for the north of England with more than 50 million trees.

The new Northern Forest, led by the Woodland Trust and the Community Forest Trust, will stretch from Liverpool to Hull and embrace communities such as Chester, Ellesmere Port, Neston, Frodsham and Helsby, as well as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

It has been backed by almost £6m of funding from the Government.

The project, which will comprise more than 50 million trees over 25 years, has the aim of delivering 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, with the M62 as its spine, 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.

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%, 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.

Tree planting rates are dramatically low with tree planting in 2016 being only 700 hectares against the Government’s target of 5000 hectares a year; there is 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 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 added: “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 7m 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 Forest Trust has 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 Forest Trust 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.

Email:

matt.warner@nwn.co.uk

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