THE government has set out its strategy to treble tree-planting rates in England with the launch of the England Trees Action Plan (ETAP).

Around 2,340 hectares of trees are currently planted each year, but in an announcement made at the launch of the plan last month, Environment Secretary George Eustice said this would increase to 7,000 hectares annually by the end of this parliament.

It is hoped the plan will see an unprecedented number of trees planted, protected and managed to deliver more for society, nature, the climate and the economy, through:

  • The England Woodland Creation Offer – a major new woodland creation grant to create over 10,000 hectares of new woodland over the lifetime of the grant. The grant will provide both greater financial incentives to plant and maintain trees and offer greater recognition of the benefits provided by woodland to people and nature. More guidance on eligibility and the application process will follow.
  • Extending the Urban Trees Challenge Fund, providing further investment to support the planting and establishment of trees in urban areas.
  • Providing additional funding as part of the Local Authority Treescape Fund to plant trees outside of woodlands for the benefit of local communities.
  • Expanding the size of the nation’s forests by working with public and private landowners to create new woodlands under Forestry England’s management. 
  • Creating at least three new Community Forests providing greater public access to woodlands where they are needed most.

READ MORE: Fourth Woodland Carbon Guarantee auction dates announced

Supported by over £500m from the Nature for Climate Fund between 2020 and 2025, ETAP is described as a once-in-a-generation plan to help achieve this vision.

Chair of the Forestry Commission Sir William Worsley said: “It is crucial that we act now to ensure that we leave our environment in a better state for future generations. We need to work towards net-zero emissions by 2050, to address biodiversity loss, to better connect people with nature, and to create more green jobs in doing so.

“Trees are central to the government’s plans to achieve this, and it is through the ambitious programme of activity set out in the England Trees Action Plan that we can realise these huge objectives.”

Reacting to the launch, Stuart Goodall, chief executive of forestry and wood trade body Confor, said: “This is the first comprehensive strategy for England’s forests and woodlands since 2007. Since then, public attitudes to the nation’s trees have been revolutionised, with the climate emergency and then the pandemic demonstrating beyond all doubt the need to greatly expand the area of forestry in this country.

“Confor and its members look forward to working with the UK government to deliver its promises to the British people. We’ve seen targets missed by governments in the past, so we need clear milestones to the end of 2024 to ensure this plan stays on track.”

Christopher Williams, chief executive of the Royal Forestry Society, said long-term investment in skills was required to meet the plans aims.

He said: “We support the principle of right tree, right place for the right reasons described in the plan. To ensure this happens, we need to make sure anyone involved in planting schemes has the required skills and understanding, which the RFS is well-placed to provide. Without this attention to detail, all the benefits of carbon capture and storage and other public benefits from new woodland creation will not be secured.”

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