MORE than 300,000 trees will be planted in the River Aire catchment area to help alleviate flood risk after a successful bid for £700,000 of funding.

The extra government funding has been awared to Leeds City Council's Flood Alleviation Scheme (FAS) which includes natural flood management (NFM) as a major element to help protect the people of Leeds and those living near the River Aire from the risk of flooding. The Leeds FAS is led by Leeds Council working alongside the Environment Agency.

The bid, which will fund 333,333 trees, was made to the Partnership Innovation Fund (PIF), a programme managed by the Woodland Trust to enable the creation of new woodland in the Northern Forest through the planting of one million trees by 30th March 2022.

The Partnership Innovation Fund is part of a £5.7 million grant awarded by DEFRA to the Woodland Trust in 2018 to help kick-start delivery of the Northern Forest in partnership with the four northern community forests.

The first few thousand trees in the Leeds City Council project were planted this past winter. A further 75,000 are planned by 31 March 2021 and 253,333 by the end of March 2022. At least 148 ha of new woodland near the River Aire will be created through the project.

When the tree planting starts it will be carried out in line with the latest government advice and guidelines on social distancing to ensure that members of the public and workers remain safe.

Holly Radcliffe, project manager with the Environment Agency for the Leeds FAS NFM programme, said: "We are delighted to receive this extra government funding. Our programme for the River Aire catchment and the Northern Forest are clearly connected and will not only provide greater opportunities for reducing flood risk but also have much wider environmental benefits alongside a positive impact on health and wellbeing.

"These trees will be planted on both public and private land and provide direct benefits to local communities living near the River Aire. We would like to work with local landowners who are willing to support the project by allowing us to plant trees on some of their land.

"Natural flood management also offers huge potential for climate mitigation, for example, creating wetlands, restoring our uplands and planting trees can help to capture tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere."

Nick Sellwood, Northern Forest project manager for the Woodland Trust said: "We very much welcome the huge ambition shown by Leeds City Council to take a truly catchment scale approach to natural flood management, recognising the important contribution trees and woodlands can make to this issue while at the same time improving biodiversity and tackling climate change."

The ambition of phase 2 of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme is to work with natural processes to reduce flood risk across the catchment and so ultimately to provide increased resilience to climate change for Leeds.

A flagship Natural Flood Management (NFM) programme, alongside traditional engineering, forms part of the second phase of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme. This phase got underway this year and aims to invest £112.1 million in flood prevention measures for areas upstream of Leeds city centre, to better protect 1,048 homes and 474 businesses. During this second phase two million trees will be planted.

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