Chichester District Council to take part in ‘exciting’ £2.5m tree planting pilot project

Chichester District Council is one of five local authorities in England chosen to take part in a £2.5million pilot project to boost tree planting.

Thursday, 10th December 2020, 12:18 pm
Woodland cover. Photo: Pixabay

The pilot project, which was announced on Saturday, will look to increase tree cover in both rural and urban areas, establishing novel ways to increase tree planting in cities, towns and countryside.

A council spokesman said: “We are currently working on an exciting project with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to increase tree planting in our district.

“The pilots will be jointly delivered by DEFRA, The Tree Council, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, Forestry Commission, Natural England, Highways England, Network Rail and five local authorities in England.

“As a council, we will be leading on the Subsidised Tree Planting pilot scheme and although the project is still in the early stages, we have already recruited a project officer to take this work forward.

“We look forward to sharing more information on this as the project develops.

“We will also be taking part in other pilot schemes around enhancing hedgerow trees and orchards.”

The news comes as research reveals that woodland cover in Chichester could be increased by 18 per cent.

A study by the organisation and mapping consultancy Terra Sulis shows that there are 3,805 hectares of land in Chichester which could be used for planting trees, without encroaching on high-value arable farmland, priority habitats, peat bogs or protected nature sites.

This would increase the amount of woodland in the area by 18 per cent, not including trees in urban areas such as parks and public gardens.

According to the government’s National Forest Inventory, only 27 per cent of Chichester’s 81,242 hectares of land are covered in woodland.

Environment group Friends of the Earth said there was potential for five per cent more to be added.

Much of this land is low grade pasture, the organisation said, calling on the Government to support farmers to grow trees on this sort of land.

But the National Farmers Union said it was important that tree planting for farmers was voluntary, to avoid negative impacts on their businesses.

Danny Gross, tree campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “Growing more trees would help us fight climate breakdown while enabling more people to access nature in their local area.

“We need more councils to step up and grow more trees, but it’s time that ministers in Westminster offer more funding for climate action at a local level.”

Chichester District Council said it was working to combat the effects of climate change in its work and through its Climate Emergency Action Plan.

In January, the council took a step forward in the fight against climate change by setting out a carbon reduction target of 10 per cent year-on-year until 2025 for the Chichester District.

A spokesman said: “We have developed a draft Climate Emergency Detailed Action Plan and recently asked for people’s views on this as part of a public consultation.

“We are currently updating the plan based on the feedback we have received and this will be considered by our Environment Panel this month.

“Tree planting is a key part of the draft action plan, along with other proposals such as: creating a Citizens’ Panel, which would be made up of members of the public who would learn about climate change from experts and then make recommendations to help inform council decision-making; helping businesses and organisations to develop projects that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and, continuing to reduce the council’s own greenhouse gas emissions.”

A spokesman for DEFRA said: “Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.

“We have already consulted on our England Tree Strategy and announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund – which will be vital tools in ensuring we work closely with communities and landowners to accelerate tree planting and meet this ambitious target.”