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New Northern Forest to be planted

An ambitious new conservation project will spend the next 25 years creating a vast woodland habitat, stretching from coast to coast in the north of England.

Northern Forest creation

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Roger Wilmshurst/FLPA/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock (5318090a) Bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus) flowering in woodland, backlit by early morning sunlight, Spithandle Lane, Wiston, Sussex, England, United Kingdom, Europe VARIOUS

The Government has announced plans to create a new Northern Forest spanning more than 120 miles between Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool.

With backing from Defra secretary Michael Gove, the Woodland Trust and Community Forest Trust propose to plant more than 50 million trees along the M62 corridor from Liverpool to Hull, over the next 25 years.

Northern Forest will connect community forests

This will connect the five community forests in the north of England — the Mersey Forest, Manchester City of Trees, South Yorkshire Community Forest, the Leeds White Rose Forest and the HEYwoods Project.

Mr Gove said that the forest would create “a vast ribbon of woodland cover in northern England stretching from coast to coast” and provide “a rich habitat for wildlife to thrive, as well as being a natural environment for millions of people to enjoy” which he said would help to deliver a “green Brexit”.

The Government has provided almost £6million to help launch the project and the proposed new forest will create new habitats for woodland birds and bats, as well as a hoped-for boost to the endangered red squirrel population, and provide a “tranquil space for millions of people” living in the area.

25-Year Environment Plan

The announcement came as part of the Government’s upcoming 25 Year Environment Plan, which will set out “how we can be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we inherited it in”.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “It is vital that we leave our planet in a better state than we found it, with cleaner air, stronger protections for animal welfare and greener spaces for everyone to enjoy.

“Progress is being made. We’re investing more than £3billion in improving air quality, tackling marine pollution by banning harmful microbeads and increasing sentences for animal cruelty to five years. But to create an environment fit for the future we can’t stop there. That is why we are supporting the creation of this new Northern Forest and will shortly be setting out our ambitious vision to further support the environment and protect its good health for generations to come.”

The first planting will begin in March at the Woodland Trust’s 680-hectare Northern Forest flagship site at Smithills, Bolton. Austin Brady, director of conservation at the Woodland Trust, commented: “Planting many more trees, woods and forests will deliver a better environment for all — locking up carbon on a large scale, boosting wildlife habitat and greening our towns and cities.”