Projects focused on improving tree planting stocks, woodland resilience and domestic timber production are to receive £20 million in funding, it has been announced today (Monday, November 28).

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Forestry Commission announced the funding, which aims to drive long-term woodland creation efforts, create jobs, boost biodiversity and support innovative approaches to tree health and resilience.

Its main goal is to work against climate change and the “mounting threat of pests and diseases”, according to the department.

“Our trees, forests and woodlands are the nation’s lungs – filtering our air, capturing carbon, providing habitats and serving as a powerful weapon in the fight against climate change,” Forestry Minister, Trudy Harrison, said:.

“At a local level, trees are the lifeblood of communities, essential to supporting wellbeing, beautifying our streets and improving people’s quality of life while providing a safe haven for wildlife.

“Protecting and restoring our precious natural world can work hand-in-hand with building a stronger, healthier economy.

“Using new technologies through these funds will build a bigger, better and more resilient forestry industry for the future, as we strive to deliver on our commitment to leave the environment in a better state than we found it.” 

Defra said 57 local authorities have been awarded nearly £10 million to accelerate planting of thousands of trees.

Successful applicants for funding include:

  • The University of Lincoln’s ISILDUR project, which will work with tree nurseries to address labour shortages in the forestry nursery sector;
  • The university of Cambridge’s TIMBER project, which is designing and creating prototypes for new building materials;
  • Red Squirrel South West for a management programme for invasive grey squirrels in North Exmoor coastal woodland.

Wood and wood products

The UK consumes 53 million tonnes of wood and wood products each year, however 81% is imported from abroad, according to the Forestry Commission.

The announcement today aims to support projects developing new technologies and working practices to help homegrown timber production meet a greater production of domestic demand.

The goal is to improve timber security and grow the UK’s forestry and primary wood processing sectors, which support 30,000 jobs and contribute over £2 billion to the economy every year.

Sir William Worsley, chair of the Forestry Commission, said: “These funds will unleash the potential of the forestry sector by championing nurseries, charities and businesses operating at the forefront of technological innovation.

“They will help more people across society get trees in the ground at an unprecedented pace and scale, whilst ensuring their resilience for future generations.

“Through the Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund, local authorities have set out a range of inspiring and ambitious plans which equate to more than 10 million trees being planted on public land across England by 2025.

“The funding will turn these aspirations into results, marking a significant step forward in our collective efforts to increase tree planting rates in England.

Hannah Bartram, chief executive officer, Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, said: “The Woodland Creation Accelerator Fund is set to make a real difference, supporting local authorities to accelerate their tree and woodland planting plans and helping to tackle the climate change and biodiversity crises.

“The fund has been well received and demand has been high – it will support local authorities across the country, equipping them with the new staff, skills, and expertise needed to drive tree planting and woodland creation commitments.”