Plans to plant 50 million trees to create a “Northern Forest” will include new woodland in and around Leeds and other major urban centres, it has been revealed.
Planting is planned over the next 25 years, beginning in March, across a 120-mile stretch of the M62 corridor between Liverpool and Hull.
Its aim is to boost habitat for wildlife including birds and bats, protect species such as red squirrels and provide more public access to woodlands.
The Northern Forest will connect the North’s five Community Forests, including the Leeds White Rose Forest, the HEYwoods Project in Hull and South Yorkshire Community Forest.
The Woodland Trust, in partnership with the Community Forest Trust and the five Community Forests, aims to plant woodland over 25,000 hectares at a cost of £500m over the project’s 25 years and once completed, it is forecast to generate £2bn for the economy through tourism growth, boosting rural businesses and generating jobs, increasing property values and limiting the impact of flooding.
The Government has pledged £5.7m of public money to help launch the scheme and to encourage private landowners to get involved.
Woodlands will be a mix of native broadleaf trees and will be targeted at areas where they can boost health and wellbeing.
Austin Brady, director of conservation at the Woodland Trust, said: “Planting many more trees, woods and forests will deliver a better environment for all - locking up carbon on a large scale, boosting wildlife habitat and greening our towns and cities.”
Environment Secretary Michael Gove added: “This is an ambitious and exciting project that will create a vast ribbon of woodland cover in northern England stretching from coast to coast, providing a rich habitat for wildlife to thrive, and a natural environment for millions of people to enjoy.”