New forest for the nation to improve access to green space

A COMPETITION for a new national forest will be launched by Environment Secretary Steve Barclay this week, alongside the unveiling of two new Community Forests – in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley – as part of an ambitious package to help people across the country access nature.

Communities will be able to put their local areas forward to become a new national forest, with the winning location receiving up to £10 million to help fund the project.

This will build on the success of the National Forest in the Midlands, which spans 200 square miles across parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.

Applicants will be assessed based on how the new forest would transform the local area, create habitats for wildlife open up access to the countryside, and help the country meet net zero targets.

The competition will launch this year with successful bids to be announced by autumn 2024.

The Environment Secretary will set out further plans on improving access to green space later this week, including new Community Forests in Derbyshire and the Tees Valley, which will see around 370 hectares of woodland planted by 2025.

The Environment Secretary will be attending COP28 next month, where he will set out further action to achieve our ambitious targets to restore the natural world.

Setting out the plans, Environment Secretary Steve Barclay said, “Public access to nature is so vital, which is why we pledged in our Environmental Improvement Plan that everyone should have access to green space or water within a 15-minute walk from their home – such as woodlands, wetlands, parks or rivers. This new forest for the nation will help make that happen.

“As a former Health Secretary, I have seen the benefits that nature has for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Bringing these spaces closer to where people live and work is a key priority for me personally.”

On the importance of trees, he said, “The value of trees to people and nature has never been clearer. They are vital for our health and security. We can’t do without them. We know that spending time in green spaces and getting hands on with nature has a positive impact on our health and wellbeing, which is why £5.77 million has been invested through our green social prescribing programme to tackle and prevent mental ill health. I will continue to make the case for investment in this area.

“I know how much nature matters, as the response to the terrible felling of the Sycamore Gap tree in Northumberland showed. Improving access, planting more trees, protecting nature and creating new green spaces is our pathway to achieving this.

“In my new role as Environment Secretary I am determined to ensure we continue to push forward with this important work and leave the environment in a better state than we found it for future generations.”

The England Trees Action Plan and Environmental Improvement Plan set out ambitious targets to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament and to achieve at least 16.5% of tree and woodland cover by 2050.


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