The Government has announced extra funding of almost £4 million to help boost tree cover in communities across the UK, as well as close to waterways to reduce flood risk.
The £3.9 million pot is aimed at helping the UK reach its target of creating 30,000 hectares of new trees per year by 2025, the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.
Over half the funding, £2.5 million, will be spent on five pilot schemes over the next two-and-a-half years to develop tree planting programmes in urban and rural communities.
The remaining £1.4 million, taken from the Government’s £640 million Nature for Climate Fund announced in March, will be used to finance trees near rivers and waterways.
Conservation charity the Woodland Trust welcomed the announcement, but warned much more needed to be done if the Government is to meet its targets on tree planting.
It is also calling for long-term funding for tree planting to be factored into local authority budgets.
Darren Moorcroft, chief executive at the Woodland Trust, said: “Whilst this funding for more trees is a good start, funding is also needed to look after them in the long term.
“This means local authorities being able to afford to have a woods and tree officer, the resources to develop a tree strategy and important practical things like the ability to assess their landholdings for areas to plant.”
Mr Moorecroft said the Government needed to consider how to secure the support of local communities for the projects, and improve access to green spaces for urban communities.
“This investment must not happen in isolation. The Government needs to think about how these pilots can contribute to nature’s recovery on a landscape scale,” he said.
The projects will be led by Defra, Natural England and conservation federation The Tree Council.
Candidates for the pilot scheme funding include community tree nurseries or planting trees from locally-collected seeds.
Other schemes encourage agroforestry – a land management system where trees are planted around commercial crops – and hedgerow management.
The £1.4 million “Woodlands for Water” money will be distributed across 15 projects to plant over 850,000 trees, covering an estimated 160km of river, thereby protecting more than 500 properties, Defra said.
Among the areas earmarked for funding is the biosphere woods project in North Devon, the Upper Thames and Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and three locations in Shropshire.
Seventeen thousand new trees are planned at ten sites across Devon and Cornwall, and 17,000 in the Ure and Wharfe catchments in Yorkshire.
Tree planting reduces flood risk by slowing the flow of water into rivers and streams, as well as reducing surface run off from farmland, which is a major source of water pollution.
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.”
He added: “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.”
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency, said: “This £1.4 million 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.”