Plans  to create an exciting new Northern Forest that will comprise of over 50 million trees over 25 years and will stretch from Liverpool across to Hull with the M62 as its spine have been revealed this morning.

The scheme by the Woodland Trust 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.

With a population in excess of 13 million 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 5,000 hectares a year; there is a need for drastic change.

Austin Brady, Director of Conservation, 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 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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