A NEW £7.8 million fund to support English councils with the staff and expertise needed to kickstart woodland creation and tree planting plans has been launched. 

The Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund will provide at least 50 local authorities with financial support to bring on board the professional expertise they need. Its launch comes after it was confirmed the UK had missed its tree-planting targets again, planting just over a third of the government's annual goal of 30,000 hectares

Delivered by the Forestry Commission (FC) in partnership with Defra as part of the £750 million Nature for Climate Fund, successful applicants to the fund will be awarded up to £150,000 each. 

READ MORE: UK misses annual tree-planting targets again

Sir William Worsley, FC chair, said: “By investing in tree planting and woodland creation, local authorities can play a pivotal role in addressing the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

“The Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund will help local authorities across England to turn aspirations into actions.

"This fund will help to increase the number of trained and experienced staff and expand our nation’s much-loved treescapes so everyone can benefit from the social, environmental and economic benefits they bring.” 

Available to Local Authorities across England, newly trained or employed staff could include project managers, woodland creation officers, community engagement officers, funding consultants, or specialist advisors, such as landscape architects or archaeologists.

All upper tier authorities (county councils, unitary councils, London boroughs, metropolitan boroughs and combined authorities) are eligible to apply. Local authorities will be invited to outline the measures they propose to increase capacity and in return identify the area of new woodland or numbers of trees they will commit to plant by the 2024/25 winter planting season. 

READ MORE: Boris Johnson told to take 'personal responsibility' over UK's failure to hit tree planting targets again

According to the Forest Research document on tree-planting rates, England created just 2,260 ha of new woodland in the year up to March 31. Scotland led the way with 10,480 ha, while Wales recorded 580 ha and Northern Ireland 540 ha. A total of 13,840 hectares were created across the UK. 

Confor's Stuart Goodall was among those to be scathing of the results, saying today: "This is a total policy failure in both economic and environmental terms.

"Report after report has shown that increased tree planting and wood use is vital to meeting the UK's net-zero targets - yet this is not being translated into trees in the ground."

The deadline for applications for the new fund is 5pm on Friday, July 8.