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50-million tree forest planned for northern England over next 25 years

By Jillian MacMath, AccuWeather staff writer
January 11, 2018, 5:22:07 AM EST

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The government has announced plans to support the creation of a 50-million tree northern forest, stretching across the M62 from Liverpool to Hull.

The £500 million project promises to improve air quality, create new jobs and reduce the threat of flooding across the region.

Currently, woodland cover makes up just 7.6 percent of the United Kingdom, compared to an average of 44 percent across the European Union.

According to the Woodland and Community Forest trusts, which are delivering the project, tree planting rates are dramatically low with only 700 hectares planted in 2016.

Northern England forest


The government’s target is to plant 5,000 hectares per year.

Contributions by the government will total £5.7 million, just under 2 percent of the project’s total cost.

The remainder of funds are expected to be charitable donations.

Paul Nolan, director of the Mersey Forest, said: “The Northern Forest will complement the planned £75 billion of hard infrastructure investment across the M62 corridor. We have shown that we can lock up over 7m tonnes of carbon as well as potentially reduce flood risk for 190,000 homes.”

The last few years have seen several significant flooding events across the North of England. Most recently, West Yorkshire was hit by flooding in late October and Leeds in late August.

“These new trees will help manage any future flooding as they will be able to soak up water instead of allowing it to flow into the many rivers in the region,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Tyler Roys said.

Flooding events like those which took place in 2017 will become slightly more manageable, he said.

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While many support the plan, critics have argued it’s more important to protect ancient woodlands which already serve the environment.

Others have called it a distraction from other government projects, such as the HS2 which threatens 35 ancient woodland sites to the north of Birmingham.

Paul de Zylva, from Friends of Earth, told BBC News: "You simply can't compare the biodiversity value of new sticks in the ground with ancient forest.

"If the government really cared about woodlands it wouldn't be routing a high speed train through them. And it wouldn't be allowing this weight of this project to be carried by charity."

Planting is set to begin in Smithills, Bolton, in March. It's estimated to take 25 years to complete.

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