More than 300,000 households have been given new access to nature as part of an ambitious project to expand woodlands across the north of England.
A report conducted by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) assessed the impact of more than six million trees which have been planted over the last five years as part of the Northern Forest project.
The survey found that more than 19,000 tonnes of carbon has been locked up by trees planted through scheme, which has also created an additional 3,500 hectares of new habitat networks for wildlife.
The Northern Forest project aims to increase the very low tree cover across the North by establishing at least 50 million new trees by 2043, to help transform the landscape from Liverpool to the Yorkshire Coast.
The report by Liverpool John Moores University found that:
Enough trees have been planted to fill more than 4,000 football pitches.
Around 87,500 households within deprived areas now have access to woodland within 500 metres.
There have been 7.5 million more visits to woodland each year.
An additional 3,500 hectares of new habitat networks for wildlife have been established.
There is 33% improvement in flood mitigation across planted sites.
Around 19,000 tonnes of carbon locked up by trees planted through Northern Forest.
There has been a £43 million annual uplift flowing from the natural benefits.
A core partnership involving the Woodland Trust and four community forests: Manchester City of Trees, The Mersey Forest, Humber Forest and the White Rose Forest, and the Community Forest Trust, have made the project possible, as well as the Government’s Nature for Climate Fund.
Nick Sellwood, the Woodland Trust’s Northern Forest Programme Director, said the results so far are “remarkable” but there is “still some way to go to reach the 50 million target of tree planting” and renewed funding will be needed after 2025.
He explained: “The climate and nature crises demand our urgent, unswerving attention. A general election is coming and poll after poll shows that the environment is a top priority for voters. Every political party should be backing projects that can deliver real environmental and social benefits like the Northern Forest.
“The time is now for all parties to commit to tackling climate change and part of that is supporting schemes to get more trees in the ground and in terms of the Northern Forest we need new funds committed.”