Defra, England Community Forests and local councils across the North East area have announced the creation of a new Community Forest to bring people closer to nature in the North East.

The North East Community Forest sees six local authorities joining forces with environmental organisations to plant trees across the region.

The initiative aims to plant up to 500ha of trees by 2025, with a long-term goal to increase canopy cover across the North East to 30% by 2050 – almost double the current national average.

The partnership will work with people in the community, businesses and landowners with the aim of bringing forests and woodlands to those most in need across Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham.

Thousands of trees will be planted in the first year – up to 25ha, or around 35 football pitches – with £480,000 in funding from Defra’s Nature for Climate Fund.

Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith said:

“I am delighted to welcome the North East Community Forest to the expanding network of Community Forests across England.

“Supported by our £640 million Nature for Climate Fund, we will plant many thousands of trees and help rewild areas that are most in need.

Our economies, livelihoods and well-being all rely on nature, and  tackling the impacts of climate change and biodiversity loss are at the heart of this project.

“Spending time in nature – particularly around trees – is proven to boost our physical and mental health and well-being, so I am pleased this project will be accessible to communities in Newcastle, Gateshead, North and South Tyneside, Sunderland and Durham.”