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Woodland across England could be doubled, new mapping reveals

Friends of the Earth urge government to provide ‘crucial’ support for farmers to help expand tree planting

Harry Cockburn
Wednesday 25 November 2020 11:22 GMT
Ullswater in the Eden District part of the Lake District - one of the areas with considerable reforestation potential
Ullswater in the Eden District part of the Lake District - one of the areas with considerable reforestation potential (Getty)

The amount of woodland across England could be doubled from its current level of 10 per cent without impacting other important habitats, high quality arable farmland or peat bogs, detailed new mapping has revealed.

The map, drawn up by Friends of the Earth and mapping consultancy Terra Sulis shows how much forest and other areas of woodland exist in rural areas in every local authority in England, and highlights potential new areas for tree planting.

Much of the opportunity for woodland is currently described as “low grade pastureland”, according to Friends of the Earth, who said it is “crucial” the government supports farmers to grow more trees on their land.

Some 20 council areas have the potential to quadruple woodlands and 34 could at least triple their wooded areas, the research found.

Northumberland was found to hold the most promise of any local authority, with 77,000 hectares of potential woodland.

The other top opportunity areas for woodland creation included Cornwall (73,000ha), Shropshire (47,000ha), and the Eden District in Cumbria (43,000ha).

Plans to expand woodlands are already in place for some of these areas.

The map does not include the potential for tree-planting in urban areas, such as more street trees and planting in parks and gardens, which could provide significantly more opportunities to grow trees in England, Friends of the Earth said.

The map allows people to search for the potential to create new woodland cover in their local area so they can lobby their council for more trees, and is being launched ahead of National Tree Week which starts on November 30.

Friends of the Earth is calling for local councils to commit to boosting woodland cover and for a national target to be included in the England Tree Strategy, expected this winter.

Danny Gross, tree campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “We're calling on forestry minister Zac Goldsmith to mark next week's National Tree Week by setting an ambitious target to boost tree cover in England.

“Growing more trees would help us fight climate breakdown while enabling more people to access nature in their local area.

“We need more councils to step up and grow more trees but it's time that ministers in Westminster offer more funding for climate action at a local level.”

Laura Chow, head of charities at People's Postcode Lottery, which supported the research said: “This mapping research shows the game-changing potential of local climate action.

“Trees are a highly valuable natural solution to address the climate crisis so I'm delighted that players of People's Postcode Lottery are supporting research into woodland creation and tree planting in communities across the country.”

An Environment Department spokesperson said: “Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.

“We have already consulted on our England Tree Strategy and announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund, which will be vital tools in ensuring we work closely with communities and landowners to accelerate tree planting and meet this ambitious target.”

Additional reporting by PA

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