FORMER Prime Minister Theresa May has praised a forestry project in the north of England as "a shining example of what can be achieved". 

Mrs May said the Woodland Trust's Northern Forest scheme is "a ground-breaking way to create a life supporting forest" as she planted a tree alongside the charity's boss last week near Bolton. 

They pair met at the 1700-acre Smithills estate, one of the trust's biggest sites, and the setting for the first tree in the project that aims to create a forest of 50 million trees covering some 10,000 square miles - from Liverpool and Chester to Hull.

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Led by the Woodland Trust, it is bringing together community forest groups from across the north, including Mersey Forest, White Rose Forest, Manchester City of Trees, Hey Woods.

Mrs May said: "As Prime Minister, I announced a new Northern Forest of 50 million trees as part of the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.

"Today, it was a pleasure to visit the Smithills Estate and see the progress so far. Nature is an important ally in the fight against climate change and the work of the Woodland Trust is a shining example of what can be achieved.”

Already more than 3.5 million trees have been planted and a recent announcement revealed a UK Government boost of £15 million which will see an extra one million trees over the next year put into the ground.

Dr Moorcroft said: "The Northern Forest brings a powerful and very tangible environmental dimension to levelling up and other efforts to improve infrastructure and quality of life in the north of England. It will help shape places where people will want to live, work and spend leisure time."