These unprecedented plans will effectively constitute the construction of a forest covering 62,000 acres of land from Liverpool to Hull. Currently, the UK is one of the least forested nations in Europe with less than 8% forest cover. These plans however, launched by the UK Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), should see that figure jump to 20% in 25 years.
Speaking on BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show, Theresa May explained ‘it’s going to take time to plant the millions of trees that will be needed in order to develop this national forest, so it’s not a short term thing that’s going to happen, but the commitment is there’.
The project, at an estimated cost of £500 million, will link five major areas forests that are already planted in the north of the country. In 25 years, the Mersey Forest, the Manchester City of Trees, the South Yorkshire Community Forest, the Leeds White Rose Forest and the HEYwoods project will become a vast woodland area, bringing both ecological and economic benefits.
The forecasts for the outcome of the project are indeed promising; the first being that the project will create a habitat conducive to the conservation of biodiversity. The 50 million pines and spruces soon to be planted will eventually be home to an abundant biological diversity. Another expectation of the project is that it will take in nearly seven million tonnes of carbon dioxide, to help limit the amount of greenhouse gases and their impact on climate change.
But the benefits of this enormous endeavour aren’t just ecological; the public will also benefit. The roots of the trees that will be planted, given their loosening properties should indeed help protect around 190,000 homes from the risk of flooding: a less aerated, less dense soil will absorb excess water in the event of heavy rainfall.
The forest will also surround the major cities of the northwest- Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds Chester and Hull- a more pleasant, green setting that will provide a better air quality. Environmental Secretary Michael Gove said ‘Trees are some of our most cherished natural assets and living evidence of our investment for future generations’.
Ecology serving the economy
The economy should also benefit from this reforestation plan. Job creation, stimulation of rural commerce and increase in property value are all promises made by the project managers. Revenue from tourism is expected to reach £2 billion.
The project is due to start his month, planting trees at the 1,680 acre, Woodland Trust site at Smithills, Bolton. Money will also be supplied by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It’s a bold investment that could make this vast area of land an ecological paradise.