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800,000 trees to be planted across UK as part of Green Recovery Challenge

Image credit: Illiya Vjestica | Unsplash

Sixty-eight projects in the UK will receive a multi-million pound boost from the government for green jobs and nature recovery.

The funding is to create over 300 hectares of woodlands, restore hedgerows and plant trees in cities as the UK government aims to deliver on its pledge to "build back greener" from the coronavirus pandemic.

Projects that protect landscapes, connect people with nature and help create and retain thousands of green jobs across England have been awarded a share of almost £40m, the government announced. This is the first round of funding, with a second round to open for applications in early 2021.

The 68 projects will see over 800,000 trees planted and help restore damaged habitats such as moorlands, wetlands and forests. The projects will also support conservation work and help to improve education about the environment.

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is a key part of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s '10-Point Plan' to kickstart nature recovery, create green jobs and tackle climate change, helping the country build back better and greener from the pandemic.

The fund will be delivered by the National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency. Twenty-one projects will receive the larger grants (£250k-£5m), with 47 projects awarded funding for the smaller grants (£50-£250k).

The winning projects include:

  • The Woodland Trust, which is being awarded £3,860,200 to restore ancient woodlands and trees in 63 landscapes across England. The funding will also go towards helping increase skills and capacity within the wider forestry and conservation sectors and reinvigorate UK timber markets.
  • A partnership led by the Youth Hostel Association (YHA) in England and Wales, who will receive £2,543,600 to connect young people to nature and build a new workforce for the green recovery, targeting young people from deprived areas through virtual, field or class-based learning, day and residential trips, citizen science programmes and volunteering with experienced environmental tutors across 200 diverse natural heritage sites, such as conservation areas, AONBs, national parks and more.
  • The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare, which has been awarded £580,400 to improve access to green spaces at NHS sites across England, including by planting 10,000 trees at 50+ NHS sites, and providing outdoor ecotherapy sessions and even refurbishing a garden for a chemotherapy suite, which will allow patients to have treatment outside.
  • The Conservation Education & Research Trust will receive £249,900 to help plant 12 ‘tiny forests’ (the size of a tennis court) in urban areas across England.
  • The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Owl Box Initiative is being awarded a grant of £123,700 to work with 100 farms and supply communities with Barn Owl boxes, monitoring their success and involving farming families in this process.

Environment minister Rebecca Pow said: "These projects will drive forward work across England to restore and transform our landscapes, boost nature and create green jobs and will be a vital part of helping us to build back greener from coronavirus.

"I look forward to working with environmental organisations as these projects develop and help address the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change, while creating and retaining jobs as part of the green recovery."

Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: "Reaching net zero and achieving the government’s '25 Year Environment Plan' goals for nature can only be done by employing the right skills. The Green Recovery Challenge Fund will deliver on the ground benefits for local communities, and wildlife, by supporting jobs in the environmental sector.

"This has been a tough year for everyone, but these projects give us reason for optimism and will help develop the skills needed to tackle the climate emergency, protect biodiversity and build back greener."

Ros Kerslake, chief executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: "Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 crisis."

The fund is designed to also drive progress on the government’s wider '25 Year Environment Plan' commitments, including plans to increase tree-planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025. This is alongside a forthcoming Environment Bill reportedly putting the environment at the centre of policy-making.

This is not the first initiative to encourage large-scale planting of trees in the UK. In November 2018, Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced the 'Greener City Fund', which would invest £12m in trees and green spaces to help London become the world’s first 'National Park City', expanding the capital’s 'urban forest' of eight million trees. Eighty-thousand trees were scheduled for planting in public and private spaces during National Tree Week.

However, as E&T reported in 2017, this project followed the revelation that London councils had actually been responsible for removing 50,000 trees in the five years prior to 2017. Over 10,000 specimens were removed by council chainsaw crews in 2016 alone.

Figures obtained by E&T at the time suggested there had been a spike in tree felling in London, with at least 20 per cent more trees cut down by the city’s 33 councils in the five years up to 2017 compared with a decade earlier (2003-2007).

Other UK cities have also taken it upon themselves to take greater care of their trees and green spaces. In 2019, Leeds launched an interactive mapping service detailing the locations of all protected trees in the city. Leeds has approximately 2,100 Tree Preservation Orders in place, some dating back to 1945, providing legal protection for trees ranging from single specimens to large areas of woodland.

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