The first of a million trees were planted at a Yorkshire Water-owned reservoir last month, as part of the new Northern Forest project to improve air quality and prevent floods in the north.
14,000 trees were planted at Ogden Reservoir near Halifax on owned by Yorkshire Water and leased by the Woodland Trust to help expand the White Rose Forest in West Yorkshire.
Over the next 25 years, the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust are aiming to plant more than 50 million trees from Liverpool to Hull, connecting the Mersey Forest, Manchester City of Trees, South Yorkshire Community Forest, the Leeds White Rose Forest and the HEYwoods Project.
Tree planting rates are currently low with only 700 hectares planted in 2016, much below the Government’s target of 5,000 hectares a year.
Woodland cover across the north is at just 7.6%, below the UK average of 13% and far below the EU average of 44%.
Yorkshire Water says the Northern Forest will improve air quality in northern towns and cities, help to mitigate flood risk in high-risk catchments, support the rural economy through tourism and improve health and wellbeing through ‘welcoming and accessible’ local green spaces.
Yorkshire Water catchment and recreation manager, Geoff Lomas, said: ‘We made a commitment in January to plant one million trees in the county over the next 10 years to help reduce flood risk, capture carbon and boost woodland wildlife opportunities. I am thrilled to see trees being planted at Ogden as part of our commitment to tree planting within the new Northern Forest.’
Simon Mageean, Northern Forest programme director, Woodland Trust added: ‘England is losing tree cover. We need to make sure we are protecting our most important habitats such as Ancient Woodland as well as investing in new ways to increase tree planting and expand woodland cover in the right places.
‘A new Northern Forest will strengthen and accelerate the benefits of community forestry, support landscape scale working for nature, deliver a wide range of benefits, including helping to reduce flood risk, and adapt some of the UK’s major towns and cities to projected climate change. The North of England is perfectly suited to reap the benefits of a project on this scale.’