Tory promise to plant 11 million trees by 2020 set to be broken after just one tenth planted

Government needs to plant nearly 10 million more over four years to meet promise

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A Conservative manifesto pledge to plant 11 million trees in England will go unfulfilled, official figures suggest. 

According to new figures released by the Forestry Commission just 1.35 million trees have been planted since May 2015 – below the estimated three million needed to stay on track to fulfil the promise. 

In the manifesto, the party said it was proud of its record on the environment in its previous five years of government, saying it had “safeguarded the Green Belt and planted 11 million trees”.

It vowed: “We will ensure that our public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation and plant another 11 million trees."

But campaigners have warned too little is being done to combat Britain status as “one of the least wooded countries in Europe” as the data showed the rate of tree planting in England had fallen to its lowest levels since the 1970s, the Sunday Telegraph reported. 

Greenpeace UK's head of public affairs, Rosie Rogers, said: "Ministers say they're committed to leaving the environment in a better state for the next generation, yet they seem to have given up on a crucial policy to deliver on it.

"Trees help absorb climate-warming CO2, provide a vital habitat for wildlife and pollinators, improve people’s experience of local nature, and, crucially, help prevent floods by trapping more water on hilltops and slowing run-offs."

Green campaigners have now called for the Government to import trees from Europe despite fears they may bring disease.

Thousands of trees in the UK have had to be culled in recent years due to the spread of a disease called Ash dieback which arrived in the country in 2012. 

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokesperson said: "Woodland cover in England is at its highest level since the 14th century and, although planting rates vary from year to year, we are committed to planting another 11 million trees over the course of this Parliament.

"As part of this commitment, we have just opened the Woodland Carbon Fund – a £19 million fund that will encourage large scale planting."