We all want the place we live to be as beautiful as it can be and the government’s tree-planting campaign to make that happen in England’s towns and cities has hit the million mark.
Today Elizabeth Truss, the environment secretary, is planting an oak to celebrate the Big Tree Plant reaching its ambitious target, which it is now set to surpass.
The campaign has been led by Defra, and the Forestry Commission has provided £4 million to pay for planting and caring for the trees. This has gone in grants to the volunteers and groups who have brought communities together to make the Big Tree Plant such a success.
Trees help ensure a healthy urban environment and make our towns and cities even more enjoyable places to live. As they grow, these trees will bring greenery, blossom, wildlife and shade to previously bare streetscapes, revive neglected waste ground with urban woods and orchards, and liven up verges and school grounds.
Everyone should have the chance to live in a leafy street, not just the better-off. That is why half the trees in the Big Tree Plant are going into the 33% most deprived neighbourhoods or those with the least green space.
As part of its commitment to a healthy natural environment, this government is championing the planting of trees in the countryside as well as towns and cities. Since 2010, we have funded the planting of at least 10 million rural trees, reinvigorating existing woodlands and planting new forests and copses. This country now has more tree cover than at any time for the past 700 years.
The Secretary of State planted the tree in Eastville Park with Forestry Commission Chair Sir Harry Studholme, Bristol Mayor George Ferguson and Director General of the Tree Council Pauline Buchanan Black. They were joined by children from Glenfrome Primary School who are planting their own trees as part of the project.
Environment Secretary Elizabeth Truss said:
Nothing is more symbolic of England’s trees than the mighty oak. So it’s fitting that I am planting a young oak today to mark the success of our campaign to plant a million trees in English towns and cities.
Trees are an essential part of the healthy environment that is so important for quality of life and wellbeing. That’s especially true in areas which don’t have much greenery, which is why we have made sure that all of the trees planted have been in urban areas of the country or in places with the least trees and green space.
Forestry Commission Chair Sir Harry Studholme said:
The success of the Big Tree Plant demonstrates people’s enthusiasm for trees. The opportunity to plant trees to benefit the neighbourhoods of the wide range of groups involved has not only brought trees into cities, but has also brought communities together.
I feel sure that the legacy of the project is not just in the trees planted and their impact on the environment, but in the experiences of the people involved and how they take that experience and support for trees into the future.
The Big Tree Plant has made funding available to any community and voluntary group, or other non-profit organisation that is keen to establish and look after community-led tree planting projects.
Launched in 2010 by the government, the campaign has been delivered through the Forestry Commission and Defra, with advice and support from a number of partners including the Tree Council, Trees for Cities and the Community Forests.
Director General of the Tree Council Pauline Buchanan Black said:
The planting of the millionth tree is a landmark not just for the Big Tree Plant, but for the communities that have come together and responded to the campaign with enthusiasm and vigour. They are the people who we must thank for making it such a success.
Their work in planning the projects, planting and caring for the trees has changed neighbourhood landscapes and generated a sense of responsibility and ownership for the local environment. What’s more, every time they pass, these champions of our trees will have the satisfaction of seeing new growth and beauty. It couldn’t have happened without them.
The programme has attracted a wide variety of organisations including wildlife trusts, community farms, volunteer groups and urban regeneration projects. Nearly 400 applications were made and over 160 groups, ranging from large charities to small community groups, won funding. Participating groups have pledged almost £7 million in match funding.