'Hebden Bridge on frontline because too few trees are being planted in climate change fight'

Government tree planting targets are “nowhere  near” what the country needs to tackle climate change, with urgent attention needed most at eight “frontline” communities, including Hebden Bridge, environmental campaigns have claimed.

The 2015 Boxing Day floods devastated Hebden Bridge. Picture by Charles Round.

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Friends of the Earth named the frequently flood-hit community in Calderdale as one of the places most in need of more trees across the UK, as it compelled the Government to dramatically increase its attempts to plant more trees.

It said pilot schemes to plant trees as flood defences had shown that peak water levels can be reduced by up to 25 per cent.

Hebden Bridge was badly hit by the 2015 Boxing Day floods and the wider district suffered flash floods as recently as March this year. More than 250,000 trees have been planted in Calderdale since 1998 by climate change action group Treesponsibility but Friends of the Earth wants better government support to accelerate tree planting both locally and across the rest of the UK.

It named other frontline communities in need of more tree cover as Darlington, London, Rimrose Valley in Merseyside, Warwickshire, Swansea, Belfast and Derry.

Emi Murphy, campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said UK tree cover should be doubled to aid the fight against climate change and protect communities from its effects, such as flooding.

“Government targets for tree planting are nowhere near what we need, and ministers such as Chris Grayling have been far too willing to push through damaging infrastructure projects which result in yet more trees being felled,” she said.

Treesponsibility co-ordinator, Dongria Khond, called for more tree planting schemes up and down the nation that are “well planned to get the best results and adequately funded to cover maintenance costs”.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) defended the Government’s record, saying: “Since 2010 government has planted over 15 million trees, and we have a clear commitment through our 25-Year Environment Plan to grow woodland cover further.

“We’ve kick-started a vast Northern Forest, allocated £10 million to plant trees in urban areas and just this week we have reappointed our Tree Champion to drive forward planting rates.

“But we recognise we need to go further, which is why later this year we will consult on a new English Tree Strategy to accelerate woodland creation and introduce a flagship Environment Bill to address the biggest environmental priorities of our age.”