The government has pledged £5.7m to kickstart the creation of a northern forest that will stretch from Liverpool to Hull.
The plans, which are being led by the Woodland Trust, include the planting of 50m trees along a 120-mile stretch of land running next to the M62. The project is expected to cost £500m over 25 years, with more than £10m committed by the Woodland Trust and the remainder still to be raised.
The UK is one of the least forested countries in Europe, with just 10% of England covered by woodland, compared with 31% of France and 37% of Spain. Just 7.6% of the area planned for the northern forest is currently covered by trees.
The government has set a goal of 12% woodland coverage in order to help meet its targets to cut climate emissions, but the Woodland Trust claims that in 2016 there were just 700 hectares of planting in England, well below the national target of 5,000 hectares (12,500 acres) a year.
Planting for the forest is to begin in March at the Woodland Trust’s 680-hectare flagship site in the suburb of Smithills, in Bolton. The charity will deliver the project in partnership with five community forests that sit within the proposed area for the new woodland – the Mersey forest, Manchester’s City of Trees, Leeds’ White Rose forest, South Yorkshire community forest and the Heywoods project.