Farmers in Northumberland will be encouraged to switch hundreds of acres of land into forestry, as part of the government’s ongoing drive to increase tree planting.
Details are limited at present, but the ambition is to plant up to one million trees between 2020 and 2024, as part of the creation of a new Great Northumberland Forest.
It is probable that funding will be on offer through schemes such as the Countryside Stewardship Woodland Creation Grant.
The government has already committed to planting 11 million trees across England by 2022 and sees greater afforestation as a key part of its strategy to tackle climate change.
In November 2017, the Forestry Commission approved a scheme to plant more than 600,000 trees across 268ha (660 acres) at Doddington North Moor in Northumberland, which is England’s largest woodland planting scheme for 30 years.
A new forestry partnership will be set up to help identify suitable sites for the new forest and to bring local stakeholders on board.
Dorothy Fairburn, CLA director for the North, welcomed the announcement, but said she wanted to see more detail and a meaningful consultation with landowners and farmers across the target area about the plans.
Planting and managing woodland was one of the most important services landowners could provide to wider society, she said.
It helped to improve air quality, mitigate flood risk, sequester carbon, enhance the local wildlife and support the rural economy through sustainable timber production and tourism.
But she added: “It must be recognised that only land deemed suitable for planting trees should be considered under any such initiative.
“In other words, productive agricultural land should remain just that.
“Similarly, there might be areas that are environmentally sensitive, and where the planting of trees might compromise its diversity.”