Rewilding parts of Yorkshire could boost economy by hundreds of thousands say researchers – with 2,250 jobs alone for Leeds

Planting more trees could create more than 2,000 jobs in one Yorkshire city, research has found, boosting the economy by as much as £8,000 per tree.

The research, carried out by the Climate Action Network group at Queen's University Belfast, reveals how more greenery and increasing woodland could create an overall 36,000 green jobs and boost the UK economy by £366m.

Some 2,250 jobs could be unlocked in Leeds alone, according to researchers – which is double the number which would be created in London (1,625).

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It is predicted, meanwhile, that more trees in built up areas could reduce violent crime by 15 per cent and even boost retail spending by an estimated 12 per cent, while also contributing to the levelling up of more deprived areas.

Planting more trees in Leeds would unlock 2,250 jobs for the city, research shows, more than double the amount for London. Picture: Adobe
Planting more trees in Leeds would unlock 2,250 jobs for the city, research shows, more than double the amount for London. Picture: Adobe

A report published by Climate Action Network, ahead of a summit between regional leaders and the UK100 Cities Network next week, says that a conservative estimate of the economic benefit of a tree ranges from £1,200 to £8,000.

By these figures, the planting of 6,000 trees strategically located across one large English town such as Huddersfield or Doncaster would provide benefits of £48m over 50 years, or nearly £1m per year.

According to UK100, the cost of planting a tree in an urban street is around £6, excluding maintenance, but can see economic benefits of up to £8,000 over 50 years.

Planting begun last year for the Government's Great Northern Forest Scheme, which would see 50m trees planted in a new woodland that will join up Liverpool, Manchester and Lancaster with Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

Volunteers planting trees on Haxby Road in York last month

Polly Billington, Chief Executive of UK100, said the research showed that money “really can grow on trees”.

“Planting trees isn’t just good for our environment, it’s good for the economy – helping businesses to recover from the pandemic,” she said.

“It is also a way to address environmental inequalities and level up the UK.”

Karen Barrass, policy and research manager for the group who commissioned the research, said that the findings should act as a wake up call to leaders hesitant to tackle climate change because of worries about spending.

Planting one tree on an urban street could provide a return of thousands over 50 years, say researchers. Pictured is Roundhay park, Leeds

“I think often people are reluctant to take action to reduce emissions because they think it will cost money, but this shows there are economic benefits.

“Think how many millions we spend a year on being stuck in traffic – if we invest in green jobs and infrastructure, we can deliver economic benefits all the while reducing our emissions.”

West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin described the figures as "fantastic and revealing research".

She said: “Evidence like this pushes us to strive for further action and change. I for one will be bringing this with me next week to the UK100 summit to discuss with my fellow mayors and how we really can grow money – and jobs – on trees.

“This data adds even more impetus to projects such as creating the White Rose Forest, which will build on this work and plant thousands of trees across our region.

“My pledge to create 1,000 green and skilled jobs for young people here in West Yorkshire is also tightly aligned to our wider aim of hitting a net zero carbon economy by 2038. I can’t wait for West Yorkshire to lead the way in a greener future.”

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