Largest environmental regeneration initiative in England grows with the Government announcement of two new Community Forests.

29 Nov 2023: England’s Community Forests, in partnership with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, have welcomed two new Community Forests to their network, Trees on Tees in Tees Valley and Derbyshire’s Heartwood Community Forest.

There are now 15 Community Forests across England, stretching from Plymouth and South Devon Community Forest on the South Coast to the North East Community Forest in and around Newcastle upon Tyne. Collectively, the work of the Community Forests represents the largest environmental regeneration initiative in England, with millions of trees planted each year to benefit local communities and the environment. Within the last year, England’s Community Forests have delivered 35% of all Government-supported woodland creation in England.

Trees on Tees Community Forest and Derbyshire’s Heartwood Community Forest will create a positive legacy for generations to come, and bring health, social and regeneration benefits to local communities. Each new Community Forest will contribute around five hectares of woodland this planting season and a total of 75 hectares each by 2025. They will be managed by local government teams from Tees Valley Combined Authority and Derbyshire County Council, respectively.

Paul Nolan, Chair, England’s Community Forests, says: “It’s fantastic that we have two new Community Forests joining our growing partnership, bringing the total number of Community Forests up to 15. Both Derbyshire’s Heartwood Community Forest and Trees on Tees will receive key support from the Government’s Nature for Climate fund through the Trees for Climate programme, helping to introduce more trees to areas most in need.  Communities in both areas will be both part of the transformation and benefit from the creation of the forests, improving the local environment and connecting more people to nature.”

Tree planting in the new Community Forest areas will be supported by England’s Community Forests’ Trees for Climate fund, which is part of the Government’s Nature for Climate Fund. In the last 12 months, the network of England’s Community Forests has planted 1,012 hectares of trees, the equivalent of approximately 2000 football pitches, through their Trees for Climate funding programme.

Forestry Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Derbyshire’s Heartwood Community Forest and Trees on Tees promise to be tremendous assets for their local communities. Woodlands and trees are the beating heart of so many communities – absolutely essential to supporting our health and wellbeing, alongside being home to some our most unique wildlife.

“The nation’s network of Community Forests play a really important role in contributing to our ambitions to increase tree planting across the country to meeting net zero ambitions, as well as increasing biodiversity. I look forward to seeing the progress as both new Community Forests start to take shape and become a woodland for generations to enjoy long into the future.”

Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Environment, Councillor Carolyn Renwick, said: “Derbyshire is well-known for being home to the rural villages and rolling hills of the Peak District, but our county is also characterised by communities in former coalfields and industrial heartlands.

“Derbyshire’s Heartwood Community Forest will bring together these urban areas, where more than three-quarters of the county’s population of 797,000 people live, helping to provide more green space for residents on their doorstep, boosting biodiversity, improving air quality and access to nature – which we know boosts people’s health and wellbeing.

“We’re very pleased that Derbyshire has been chosen to create a community forest, which will also add value to Derbyshire’s tourism and visitor economy and bring the potential for the growth of new businesses and jobs in the area through nature led regeneration of industrial landscapes.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “This announcement that Tees Valley will be a Community Forest is fantastic news for our area and will supercharge our Trees on Tees ambition to plant one million trees.

“We are passionate about improving the environment across Teesside, Hartlepool and Darlington by making our neighbourhoods cleaner and greener.

“We will now be getting spades into the ground to deliver on this project which will have multiple benefits for residents across our area.”

Established more than 30 years ago, England’s Community Forests cover 20% of England, where almost 50% of the population lives and work closely with communities and landowners to plant trees where they are needed the most. By creating well-managed, woodland landscapes, the network of Community Forests is helping to mitigate the impact of climate change, capturing and storing carbon for generations. They are planting tree species that are suitable for our changing climate, helping communities adapt by providing cooling shade, preventing flooding, improving air quality, boosting people’s wellbeing, and creating habitats for wildlife.

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