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Swindon’s community forest has target of planting half a million trees

In the next five months, Swindon’s Great Western Community Forest will be one of 10 community forests across England planting more than 500 hectares of trees thanks to a new £12.1 million fund.

Published: Monday, 7th December 2020
Tree planting

In total, the trees to be planted across winter 2020 and into 2021 will eventually store over 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide and will also help in making local landscapes more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

For people in Swindon the delivery programmes will offer a wide range of added beneļ¬ts, unique to community forestry, including high levels of community engagement.

These new ‘climate combatting’ woodlands across England will appear around towns and cities, and for the next five years a wider programme has been drawn up for over 6,000 hectares of new woodlands, one of the biggest environmental regeneration initiatives the UK has seen.

The GWCF is a key partner in the new Trees for Climate programme, which is being delivered by the partnership of 10 community forest organisations that span the country, from Yorkshire to Somerset, supported by the national charity The Community Forest Trust. An initial £12m of grant funding for the first planting session in 2020/21 has been secured from the Government’s Nature for Climate fund.

The funding will also create new jobs and secure existing ones within the forestry sector and open up new opportunities for people seeking a career in the environment sector.

The GWCF target is to support the planting of a total of approximately 350ha of woodland across the Great Western Community Forest over the five-year period of the programme - around 500,000 trees in total.

For this planting season (20/21) the GWCF’s target is to create just over 18 hectares of new woodland and trees, which will be planted by the end of March 2021. This equates to around 20,000 trees.

Councillor Keith Williams, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, said: “This is brilliant news for Swindon and the surrounding area and is a real boost to our carbon reduction strategy

“We are developing planting schemes in Highworth, Central Swindon (North) and on land south of the M4 as well as schemes just outside Swindon in the Vale of the White Horse District.

“We will be working with our local communities and partner organisations to develop and deliver the schemes, which will bring so many benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.

“Our ambition is to plant 350 hectares of woodland, which is three times the size of Lydiard Park so we are looking at planting roughly half a million trees. This will help us reach our target of ensuring we have 30 per cent of tree cover across the Great Western Community Forest area.”

Forestry Minister, Lord Goldsmith, said: “Through this exciting new programme we will build back greener, as more communities - particularly those in urban environments – will have access to nature, with real benefits for health and wellbeing.

“Trees are the backbone of our urban and rural environments and essential in tackling the climate emergency. This vital programme will plant trees where they are most needed to stem flooding and provide more places for nature to thrive.”

Trees for Climate will help deliver against the goals in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and support Nature Recovery Networks across England. It has been drawn up by The Community Forest Trust, the national charity for community forestry and is being delivered through Cheshire West and Chester Council, the accountable body for the programme.

As well as funding the tree planting activity itself, the grant will enable each of the community forests to manage all aspects of the new woodland creation carefully, including community and landowner engagement. New approaches to long-term woodland management will also be developed including greater levels of sustainability, and finding innovative new models of woodland delivery that may help to shape the future of community forestry forever.

Extensive planning is already underway to ensure Trees for Climate starts to be delivered during the current tree planting season – which runs from November through to March. More than 8,000 hectares of land has already been identified as suitable for planting, over the next five planting seasons to March 2025. 

There are still opportunities for landowners to get in touch with their local community forest to see if the land they have is suitable for the programme.

The new woodlands will store vast quantities of carbon playing an important role in our national mission to help the UK hit its target of net zero by 2050. The woods will also deliver natural flood management systems, improve air quality and create a more advantageous setting for economic recovery and growth. Through Trees for Climate more communities in towns and cities will get access to nature, proven to boost health and wellbeing and giving children living in urban areas a chance to explore the natural environment.

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