A scheme to plant deciduous trees across an area equivalent to about 14,000 football pitches should consider the needs of farming and create networks for wildlife, a national park committee has been told.
Members of the North York Moors National Park Authority heard 220 hectares of woodland needed to be planted by 2022 - and the same amount again every three years for 100 years - in order to offset carbon emissions from the electricity usage of Sirius Minerals’ mine outside Sneatonthorpe, near Whitby.
Under the agreement as part of planning permission for the mine, the authority is obliged to cover just under four per cent of the park with trees.
Considering a strategy to achieve the goal, members were today told it would be necessary to incentivise landowners with grants of up to 100 per cent, if they work in partnership with the authority on the projects.
The meeting was told that while other woodland creation schemes were lengthy processes, the Sirius-funded scheme “landowners’ hands would be held every step of the way”.
Authority member David Hugill told the meeting it was vital the future need of farming and the landscape was considered “rather than the temptation to meet targets”.
The authority’s chairman, Jim Bailey, questioned one of the proposed criteria landowners needed to fulfil – that the minimum area of woodland creation in one agreement is one hectare.
He said: “I think there is a huge opportunity we are missing. Much of the biodiversity is not in the middle of the forest or in the middle of a farm, it is between the two. There is a lot of people in the national park that would love to plant a hectare of woodland and I think that would enhance the landscape.”
He added while the trees needed to capture carbon, trees that could be used for timber or other benefits, such as apple trees, should be considered.
Officers said funding for the scheme was not “a bottomless pit” and the costs of smaller planting projects would be relatively higher, but the criteria may need to change in order to maintain the target of 700 hectares a year.
They added they did not have lists of species that could be planted and the scheme would be run on a case by case basis.