LIKE IT or not, Michael Gove is proving to be one of the most radical - and effective – Environment Secretaries and plans to create a ‘Northern Forest’ stretching 120 miles from Hull to Liverpool is indicative of the blue-sky thinking now taking place.
One of the central planks of the raft of policies being announced by Theresa May as she recalibrates the Government, the 25-year project involving the planting of 50 million trees reflects Mr Gove’s desire to raise awareness about the great outdoors, agriculture and the natural environment.
Yet, while the initial investment of just £5.7m has already seen the initiative dubbed the ‘National Flowerhouse’, wider questions persist about the Government’s wider approach towards the environment.
If Ministers are so committed to linking the North’s cities with woodland walks, trails and so on, they need to apply the same principle to Crossrail for the North to lessen the impact of road congestion and dangerous pollution levels in some areas.
If Ministers are so committed to rural Britain – Mr Gove said last week that he was in awe of the “beauty of our natural landscapes” – this stance appears to be at odds with North Yorkshire’s contentious fracking plans.
And if Ministers are so committed to the environment, why have national park authorities – and other bodies – suffered above-average budget cuts in recent years? This is not to criticise the Government’s ambition – it is to ensure this policy has genuine roots, from an environmental and economic perspective, and is not just a fig leaf to the North.