New woodlands, improved woodland access, and greater protections for street trees have all been announced by the Government today.

As part of National Tree Week, new measures announced include two new Community Forests in Derbyshire and Tees Valley and a new competition to support the announcement of successful bids by Autumn 2024 to support creation of one or more new national forests.

England’s forests are vital to connecting communities to nature and woodlands, helping to improve wellbeing. They also support growth and regeneration, and boost biodiversity. The Forestry Commission plays an important role in the community forest network by providing advice and support on the ground to help with planning all aspects of tree planting and management.

Communities will also be able to put their local areas forward to become a new national forest, with the winning location receiving up to £10 million to help fund the project. This will build on the success of the National Forest in the Midlands, which spans 200 square miles across parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire. Applicants will be assessed based on how the new forest would transform the local area, create habitats for wildlife open up access to the countryside, and help the country meet net zero targets. The competition will launch this year with successful bids to be announced by autumn 2024.

The forestry package includes:    

  • A new National Forest – a new award which will support the creation of new woodland or connecting up existing woodlands, with successful bids to be announced in 2024, inspired by the success of the existing National Forest in the Midlands, stretching from Leicester to Burton upon Trent.
  • Two additional community forests – these will be created in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley and will see 175 hectares of new woodland planted by 2025, building on the success of the 13 existing Community Forests across England.
  • A plan to increase access to our woodlands – ensuring people from all backgrounds can access and enjoy newly planted and existing trees and woodlands across the country.
  • A plan to recover England’s temperate rainforests – backed by £750,000 of Research & Development funding to improve resilience, management and protection of our unique temperate rainforests in Cornwall, Devon and Cumbria

Forestry Commission Chair Sir William Worsley said:

Trees improve people’s quality of life and are the heart of our communities. Alongside increasing the number of trees growing across the nation, we must look after our existing treescapes and woodlands ensuring more people have access to them.

We are fully committed to supporting improvements to the nation’s physical and mental health by creating more green spaces within a 15-minute walk; the new Woodland Access Plan will help deliver greater access to the nation’s wonderful woods and forests.  We are also keen to further our research into the benefits forests, woods and trees have for all of us which will be supported by the recently announced £16 million government funding for Forest Research to support healthy and resilient woodlands. 

The ambitious new measures announced today build upon the ongoing work of the Forestry Commission – from rare British rainforests in our countryside to the trees in our towns and cities we will continue to ensure trees bring the multiple benefits for future generations.

The Community Forest programme is playing a significant part in government’s commitment to address climate change and carbon mitigation through woodland creation and management. In the first three years of the programme 2,063 hectares of new woodland were created with 81% having public access. This planting season the England Community Forest network have a target to plant 2,000ha, a 100% increase on last year’s figures.

This is the latest step in Government and Forestry Commission shared ambition to increase the environmental, economic and social benefits of woodlands, including increasing peoples access to trees and woodlands, and all the mental and physical health benefits that they provide access. The Forestry Commission continues to work in partnership across communities and stakeholder groups to maximise the public, environmental and economic benefits that flow from our nation’s forests, woods and trees. The social, environmental and economic benefits of being in woodlands are well-documented, helping communities to be happier, healthier and more pleasant places to live. As the Forestry Commission continues to increase the number of trees growing across England the new measures set out today will ensure people from all backgrounds can access and enjoy newly planted and existing woodlands and trees across the country.

As the UK expands the numbers of trees in England, the Forestry Commission say we must ensure our existing trees are protected. New measures are being introduced to ensure communities are consulted by local authorities before street tree felling takes place. This builds upon existing protections for trees announced last year to crack down on illegal felling, which mean offenders face unlimited fines and prison sentences.

Today’s announcement builds on the success of the England Trees Action plan, implemented by the Forestry Commission, which has kickstarted tree planting across the UK with over 3000 hectares of new woodland created last year, representing the highest planting rate for nearly a decade and an increase of 40% on the previous year.  Planting of new trees in urban areas has also been increased through a variety of grants. Growing more trees helps us tackle climate change, the biodiversity crisis and support timber security while boosting local economies and creating jobs across the country.

Last year the the Forestry Commission planted 3,600 hectares of new woodland, this represents the highest planting rate for nearly a decade and an almost 40% increase on the previous year.

Source: Forestry Commission

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