Yorkshire Dales rivers get share of nearly £4m boost for tree planting over five years

Beauty spots in the Yorkshire Dales will benefit from part of a cash boost of nearly £4m to finance an ambitious tree-planting programme across the country.

The Government today announced that the new funding will help it to reach its target of 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of new trees per year across the UK by 2025.

Some £2.5m will be spent planting trees in cities, towns and the countryside, tackling climate change and creating habitats for wildlife, while £1.4m – part of the £640m Nature for Climate fund - will aid the creation of 850,000 trees near rivers and watercourses to better protect homes and reducing flood risk.

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As part of the second set of funding, 10,257 trees will be planted in the River Ure and River Wharfe catchments in Yorkshire to improve wildlife habitat and connectivity. The Yorkshire

The River Wharfe at Wensleydale, Hawes, in the Yorkshire Dales. Picture: Marisa Cashill.

Dales Rivers Trust is signed up as a project partner for planting along the Dales to Vale Rivers Network.

Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith said: “We are going to have to break down the barriers to planting trees outside of woodlands if we are to deliver our ambitious tree planting commitments.

“Trees are the backbone of our urban and rural environments, and increasing planting is an effective way both to tackle climate change and stem the appalling collapse of biodiversity.

These ambitious new initiatives will help deliver tree planting on an unprecedented scale. They will help to regenerate our urban areas, as well as our watercourses and create a network of green corridors for both people and wildlife to thrive.”

Other areas to benefit from the funding include Shropshire, Oxfordshire and Devon.

The Environment Agency invited applications in October through local catchment partnerships and a total of 15 projects have been invited to make a full grant application for projects to be delivered by April 2021.

Sara Lom, the chief executive officer of The Tree Council, said: “We are delighted to be working with local authority partners at the heart of this important project, in line with our mission to bring people together, to find creative solutions to establish more trees in our communities in a practical and sustainable way.”

In addition today’s announcement, the Government recently consulted on a new England Tree Strategy to accelerate tree planting schemes and improve the management of existing trees and woodlands.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson also recently announced a further £40m additional investment into the government’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, aimed at creating and retaining thousands of jobs in the environmental sector.

It comes following plans announced in 2018 to create the Northern Forest - a 25-year project to create tens of millions of trees in woodland in and around Leeds and other major urban centres in the North along a 120-mile between Liverpool and Hull.

Chair of the Environment Agency, Emma Howard Boyd, said: “This £1.4m fund is one part of the wide range of measures to improve the nation’s resilience to the impacts of climate change. It will accelerate efforts to reach net zero and help achieve the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan goals for nature through effective nature-based solutions

“The projects chosen will provide invaluable benefits to communities and our environment – from reducing flood risk and protecting homes, to capturing carbon, improving water quality and encouraging biodiversity.”

However some say that the funding does not go far enough.

Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, formerly Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: "We have seen a number of high-profile climate announcements recently with very little said on nature and the role of the countryside. Nature-based solutions have huge untapped potential to tackle the climate emergency and restore our environment.

"We know the more trees we have to fight runaway climate change the better so further investment is welcome news although £3.9 will only have a limited impact.

"What’s more, our humble hedgerows, which like trees have huge potential to soak up carbon emissions, have largely been forgotten. They are also great for wildlife, including hedgehogs, birds and insects, and are an icon of the English countryside. Hedgerows should become icons of climate action.

"That’s why it is crucial the government goes further and delivers a far-reaching national tree strategy that champions the role of hedgerows and matches its tree planting ambitions with hedgerow planting. The time for action has come."