Drive to plant a million trees across Lancaster part of new ‘Northern Forest’ project

The night skies above Gisburn Forest and Stocks. Photo by Matthew Savage.
The night skies above Gisburn Forest and Stocks. Photo by Matthew Savage.

A drive to plant a million trees across north Lancashire has been launched as part of the Northern Forest project.

Following its declaration of a Climate Emergency, Lancaster City Council has embarked on the ambitious project to improve air quality, mitigate flood risk, support the rural economy and connect people with nature.

Photo Neil Cross'Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

Photo Neil Cross'Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

It is working with the Woodland Trust who, thanks to funding from Defra, will contribute up to 85 per cent of the costs to anyone wanting to incorporate trees on their land through its MOREwoods scheme.

Coun Kevin Frea, deputy leader of Lancaster City Council, said: “As well as helping us to meet the carbon reduction targets we set on declaring a Climate Emergency, the new Northern Forest will have huge benefits for people and wildlife for many centuries to come.

“Trees increase biodiversity, reduce air pollution and provide a place for people to walk and relax, improving mental health through contact with nature.

“The council will play its part by planting trees and hedgerows on its own land and will also be contacting landowners across the district to ask for their help in providing space for planting.

Photo Neil Cross'Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

Photo Neil Cross'Councillors and residents protesting against housing plans on Freeman's Wood in Lancaster

“I hope that everyone will embrace this ambitious project and get involved by either identifying suitable land or volunteering to plant trees.”

The Northern Forest will comprise over 50 million trees over 25 years and will stretch from Liverpool across to Hull with the M62 as its spine.

The Woodland Trust’s Senior Farming Adviser, Helen Chesshire, added: “A well devised and implemented agroforestry system can pay dividends.

“Trees can provide shelter for crops and livestock, improve soil quality and stability, reduce surface run off, attract pollinators and provide an additional cash crop as well as a home for wildlife.

“And with our best ever subsidy there’s no better time to think about planting for a stronger more viable future.

“The area covered by the Northern Forest has below average woodland cover - just 7.6 per cent compared to the UK average of 13 per cent - but we have above average ambition and farmers, smallholders and landowners are an integral part of our vision.”

Landowners that could potentially take part in the project will be contacted by the city council in due course to encourage support in the scheme, but the Woodland Trust is also taking applications for planting in the November 2019-March 2020 planting season.

Applicants must be willing to plant currently non-wooded land at a density of between 1,000 and 1,600 trees per hectare.

The Trust will provide a wide range of native trees and shrubs, all sourced and grown in the UK to reduce the risk of disease, visit the site to advise on what to plant where and, if eligible, arrange a contractor to plant.

Applications can be made online at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/morewoods.

There are also a number of other ways that people can get involved, including helping the council to plant trees on its land. To find out how you can get involved email milliontrees@lancaster.gov.uk.