Ministers hope proposals will improve water quality and help to manage flood risks
More than 3,000 hectares of new woodlands are set to be planted along England’s riverbanks and watercourses as part of a new project to help manage flood risks and boost biodiversity, the government has announced.
Forestry minister Lord Goldsmith said on Saturday that the “Woodlands for Water” project would aim to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchment areas from Devon to Cumbria by March 2025.
The scheme, which has been launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has received backing from leading environmental organisations such as the National Trust, Woodland Trust, the Rivers Trust and Beaver Trust.
It is hoped that the trees will help to improve water quality by blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers and manage flood risks by slowing the flow of water.
The plans will also boost biodiversity by creating new habitat corridors and make England’s rivers more climate resilient by providing shade and cooling water temperatures, according to the government.
“This is a hugely exciting and untapped area for woodland creation,” Lord Goldsmith said, speaking from a National Trust river tree planting project.
“The benefits of planting trees by rivers are vast – from helping biodiversity recover by creating more natural riverbanks; to slowing the flow of surface water to reduce the risk of flooding; and improving water quality by buffering rivers from harmful agricultural pollution.”
He added that ministers were “committed” to trebling tree planting rates in the coming years as part of efforts to tackle climate change.
The government has also said that farmers and landowners will be able to apply for funding through “England Woodland Creation Offer” grants to give them greater financial incentives to plant and manage trees.
Commenting on the scheme, a senior National Trust director said that the proposals would help to enhance work on protecting the health of the UK’s rivers.
“With 90 per cent of UK floodplains ‘not fit for purpose’ and creating flood issues for communities, we fully recognise the value of trees to our river corridors in helping to slow flood waters, soak up carbon and keep rivers cool in the face of rising temperatures,” Harry Bowell, the Trust’s Director of Land and Nature, said.
“This work will enhance the projects we already have underway where our primary focus has been the conservation and health of the river channel itself.
“This partnership and funding will allow us to look at the wider river corridor to further enhance this work.”
The announcement follows the publication of the government’s England Trees Action Plan, which sets out the long-term strategy for planting trees in the country, earlier this year.
Planting will take place on the National Trust estate and in six catchment areas across the country including: Taw and Torridge in Devon and Somerset; Tamar and Fowey in Devon and Cornwall; Bure, Glaven, Stiffkey, Wensum, Heacham, Lark, Gaywood and Wissey catchment in Norfolk; Eden and Derwent in Cumbria; Teme in Shropshire and Worcestershire; Wye and Usk in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.