THE Urban Tree Challenge Fund has reopened for applications, DEFRA and the Forestry Commission have announced.

44,000 large trees will be planted in towns and cities across England, with thousands targeted near schools and healthcare centres in more deprived areas with fewer trees.

The Urban Tree Challenge Fund has reopened following the success of the first two rounds, where a combined total of up to 134,000 new trees will be planted.

Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “I am delighted to announce the reopening of this hugely successful fund, made possible by £6 million from our Nature for Climate Fund. Ahead of our forthcoming ambitious action plan for trees, woodland and forestry, and to complement our manifesto ambition to have every new street lined with trees, the Urban Tree Challenge Fund provides a fantastic example of how trees can be planted, managed and enjoyed to provide the greatest impact – in areas where they are needed most.”

Forestry Commission chair Sir William Worsley said: “The pandemic has shown us just how important trees and nature are, wherever you live.

“Through targeting funding toward areas where they will have the biggest benefits, including near healthcare and educational facilities, this fund will deliver increased benefits for health and wellbeing, as well as contributing towards the government’s ambition to increase woodland creation across England.”

READ MORE: Woodland sees 'record-breaking' visitor numbers after grant funding

Slough Borough Council has planted over 8,500 trees under the Urban Tree Challenge Fund. Through the delivery of diverse community-led tree planting projects, the Council has seen wider health and educational benefits to the general public, students and schools, stakeholders and community groups.

Louise Handley at Slough Council said: “The funding from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund has allowed us to bring post Covid initiatives to the most deprived areas of our community, which focus on up skilling for employment, active lifestyles, citizen science and volunteering.

“The design of the Urban Forest has facilitated a move away from close mown grass cutting regimes to one of biodiversity improvement and habitat creation. This initiative has the potential to reach all of Slough's population and its flora and fauna.”

Over the next two years, up to £6 million will be available for planting in addition to necessary maintenance payments. The grants are administered by the Forestry Commission, and successful applicants are match-funding the money they receive.

Grants will fund the planting of trees and the first three years of their care.

DEFRA and the Forestry Commission have also announced a new £1 million Woods into Management Innovation Fund, which is due to open this month, with a focus on improving the condition of existing woodlands. The aim of this scheme is to increase the area of woodland in active management to improve their ecological condition, help them adapt to a changing climate and recover from the impacts of pests and diseases.

The scheme is aimed at forestry businesses and conservation organisations who are in a position to help owners better manage their existing woodlands.

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