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St Helens Borough to benefit from £12m plan for 500 hectares of new woodland in England

Article date - 21 December 2020

In the next five months, The Mersey Forest will be one of ten Community Forests across England planting over 500 hectares with trees in a push to help deliver against the Government’s tree planting targets.
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The new programme - Trees for Climate - will see trees planted in Community Forests that span the country, from Yorkshire to Somerset. When mature, the trees will eventually store over 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of over 45,000 trans-Atlantic flights and contributing to meeting the government’s net zero by 2050 target. The project will also reduce flood risk, increase sustainable UK grown timber, provide more places for nature and biodiversity to thrive, and increase peoples’ access to and enjoyment of woodland. The funding will also create new jobs and secure existing ones within the forestry and environmental sector, helping to boost local economies as part of a green recovery.

In the next five months, The Mersey Forest Partnership is aiming to plant nearly 40 hectares of new woodland – nearly three times the size of Victoria Park – around Merseyside and North Cheshire, within urban parks and green spaces and on farmland. Last year, both St Helens Borough Council and the wider Liverpool City Region declared a climate emergency and this new planting will help contribute to local action.

Landowners should contact The Mersey Forest Team if they have land suitable for tree planting.

Councillor Andy Bowden, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, said:

“As a council we have declared a climate emergency and pledged to have in place a zero-carbon footprint by 2040. This is why we are establishing a climate change commission, why we need to balance the needs of creating jobs and growth with how we manage and use the majority of our borough which is green space, and why we understand the importance of trees, forests and woodlands in the fight against climate change.

“Our approach to planning already means at least two trees must be replanted for every one lost as part of any development, so additional trees through this initiative are welcomed.”

Forestry Minister, Lord Goldsmith, said:

“Through this exciting new programme we will build back greener, as more communities - particularly those in urban environments – will have access to nature, with real benefits for health and wellbeing.

“Trees are the backbone of our urban and rural environments and essential in tackling the climate emergency. This vital programme will plant trees where they are most needed to stem flooding and provide more places for nature to thrive.”

Paul Nolan, Director of The Mersey Forest, said:

“The Trees for Climate programme will plant more trees targeted at areas in St. Helens where they can make the greatest difference, in particular to local quality of life and levels of health and wellbeing. We've shown how trees and woodlands boost our local economy, reduce flooding, create new habitats for wildlife and increase community spirit.

“The national network of Community Forests has been working for over 25 years to bring nature closer to people and local communities and is perfectly placed to deliver real change, on the ground.”

Chair of the Forestry Commission, Sir William Worsley, said:

“This exciting new programme will benefit local communities all across England - helping to increase access to nature, creating much needed jobs in the environmental sector and bringing invaluable benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.

“The £12.1 million boost will be a huge help both for getting trees in the ground, but also enabling each of the Community Forests to ensure they are well-managed in the long term, making sure these new woods can thrive to the fullest extent."

Trees for Climate will help deliver against the goals in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and support Nature Recovery Networks across England. It has been drawn up together with The Community Forest Trust, the national charity for community forestry and is being delivered through Cheshire West and Chester Council, the accountable body for the programme.

As well as funding the tree planting activity itself, the grant will enable each of the Community Forests to manage all aspects of the new woodland creation carefully, including community and landowner engagement. New approaches to woodland creation and long term management of woodland will also be developed.