300,000 households given new access to nature, new Northern Forest study finds

4 October 2023

More than 300,000 households – equivalent to roughly a city the size of Leeds** – have been given access to nature they previously didn’t have, a new Northern Forest study shows.

The report, commissioned by the Northern Forest Partnership and conducted by Liverpool John Moores University, looked to reveal the real impact of the six million-plus trees that have so far been planted in the ambitious project to link Liverpool to Hull with trees.

The White Rose Forest is a founding partner of the Northern Forest project, and we work closely with the City of Trees, Humber Forest, Mersey Forest, as well as the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust, to increase tree cover across a large area of the North of England.

The Northern Forest project kicked off in 2018. Among its aims were to increase the 7.6% tree cover across the north – very low compared to the national average of 13% and way below most counties in the south – by establishing at least 50 million new trees by 2043, to help transform the landscape from Liverpool to the Yorkshire Coast.

It also aimed to lock up tonnes of carbon to fight climate change, reduce the risk of flooding and create more jobs.

Key points from the five year study show that:

  • more than 4,000 football pitches of trees have been planted
  • 19,000 tonnes of carbon have been locked up by trees planted through the Northern Forest
  • an additional 3,500 hectares of new habitat networks have been created for wildlife
  • a £43 million annual uplift is flowing from the natural benefits
  • 7.5 million more visits to woodland have been seen each year
  • 87,500 households within deprived areas now have access to woodland within 500 metres
  • a 33% improvement in flood mitigation has been seen across planted sites.

The Northern Forest Partnership has hugely benefitted from the Government’s Nature for Climate Fund, which has played a major part in funding the six million trees planted so far through the Nature for Climate Funded Grow Back Greener and Trees for Climate programmes. The Northern Forest partners have also secured a wide breath of other funding from corporate partners and other fundraising campaigns.

To keep the momentum growing, the Woodland Trust says renewed funding post 2025 needs to be committed.

Nick Sellwood, the Woodland Trust’s Northern Forest Programme Director, said:

“The climate and nature crises demand our urgent, unswerving attention. A general election is coming and poll after poll shows that the environment is a top priority for voters. Every political party should be backing projects that can deliver real environmental and social benefits like the Northern Forest.

“The time is now for all parties to commit to tackling climate change and part of that is supporting schemes to get more trees in the ground, and in terms of the Northern Forest we need new funds committed.

“The Northern Forest is a wonderful project which has brought together multiple agencies to make the north greener – and while there is still some way to go to reach the 50 million target of tree planting, the results so far are remarkable!”

Paul Nolan, Chair of England’s Community Forests and Director of The Mersey Forest, said:

“Community Forests have a track record of working alongside our communities to establish new woodlands in and around our towns and cities, creating access to green spaces that generations of residents will benefit from. The Northern Forest is an ambitious project that is vital to help the North adapt to a changing climate, whilst improving people’s health and wellbeing and our economies. Through our partnership approach we’ve seen great progress over the last five years, and we’re excited to continue the good work through to our 2043 target.”

Long Lands Common near Harrogate is a new 30 acre community-owned woodland supported by a large group of dedicated volunteers and local businesses. With funding and support from the White Rose Forest, volunteers will plant almost 5 hectares of trees over a 3 year period to create a rich and varied native woodland featuring orchards, wood pasture, wetlands, coppice and more. Following the first planting season Long Lands Common is already delivering important benefits for biodiversity and wildlife as well as community amenity and educational value.

For more information about the Northern Forest go to: thenorthernforest.org.uk

**UK population data shows there are approximately 341,000 households in Leeds, 207,000 in Liverpool, 209,000 in Bradford, 232,000 in Sheffield and 1.1 million in Greater Manchester.