Ambitious £5 million project will plant more than half a million trees to reduce flooding, improve air quality and remove 100,000 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere
Ribble Rivers Trust, alongside project partners Lune Rivers Trust and Wyre Rivers Trust, have launched a decade-long campaign to double the area of woodland across Lancashire to fight climate change, improve air quality and reduce flooding.
Working with private and public sector supporters together with community-based groups and conservation charities, the Trusts are aiming to plant over 500,000 trees over the next decade, creating 500 hectares of new or restored woodland. The new woodlands will be located alongside the Rivers Ribble, Lune and Wyre together with their network of tributaries which stretch from the Yorkshire Border to the coast beyond Preston.
Lancastrians of all ages will have the opportunity to get involved in the campaign – either by donating via the Ribble Rivers Trust website or by participating in hundreds of grass roots tree planting and habitat creation projects across the county.
The initiative aims to raise £500,000 per year of funding from public and private sector partners, grants, and the general public in order to raise £5 million. Progress has already been made towards this year’s target and this exciting initiative will continue to engage thousands of sponsors, volunteers, schools and community groups.
A huge programme of tree-planting is critical if the county is to meet its obligations to reduce greenhouse gases and slow climate change. The National Forest Inventory states that less than six per cent of Lancashire has tree cover, which is less than half the national average and one of the lowest of any counties in the UK.
The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) suggests that the UK as a whole needs to plant at least between 30,000 and 50,000 hectares of new woodland every year. According to Forest Research, last year, the UK struggled to plant half this number of trees, with the overwhelming majority of those planted in Scotland.
Lancashire itself covers 1.2% of the UK, which for us means planting 381 hectares of woodland a year. Additionally, in order to meet greenhouse gas reduction targets over the next decade, we need to plant at least 50,000 trees throughout Lancashire every year.
Lancashire Woodland Connect will not only help the county and the country meet environmental targets, it will also provide a host of direct benefits in terms of:
- Flood risk reduction
- Improved air quality
- Enhanced water quality
- Habitat creation and connecting and improving existing habitats
- Greenhouse gas reduction, including capturing over 160,000 tonnes of carbon
- Improved recreational access for health and wellbeing
- Volunteer opportunities and outdoor education opportunities
Thanks to tried and tested research methods, computer modelling, and extensive GIS planning all trees planted as part of Lancashire Woodland Connect will be planted in the locations where they will provide the most benefit. Each potential woodland site will be carefully planned and researched to ensure the sites are suitable, that woodland will be an improvement on the existing habitat, and will provide multiple benefits to the environment, wildlife, and people.
Whalley Village Hall Committee is one of the first community groups to commit to funding the initiative with a £10,000 donation.
Whalley was hit by catastrophic flooding at Christmas 2015 and the village hall provided refuge for the families affected and was a focal point for the clear-up operation.
As well as committing this generous sum to the Trust’s county-wide woodland initiative, members of the local community are looking forward to getting involved in hands-on tree planting at various locations around the village.
Village Hall Committee chairman Mike Seery said: “We have been looking to invest our surplus in projects that benefit the entire village and planting trees to improve air quality and strengthen natural flood resilience seems like an excellent investment from which the whole community will benefit.
“£10,000 may seem like a lot of money for a small, community-based charity, but the committee was unanimous its support for the scheme. We see this as a long-term investment that will pay dividends for the people of Whalley for at least the next 100 years.”
Ribble Rivers Trust Director Jack Spees said:
“There is huge appetite from communities across the Ribble catchment to do their bit to tackle climate change, increase biodiversity and contribute to natural flood risk management.
By working together, we can achieve so much more than alone and Whalley village hall’s generous donation demonstrates the kind of leadership and vision that we hope others will replicate.”
“Ribble Rivers Trust, the Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council have undertaken a study to identify which communities’ health will benefit the most from community-led action to improve the environment – including woodland creation.”
“It’s clear that there are significant benefits to be achieved by expanding woodland cover and that this should be a priority for all, but it is equally clear that the scale of this project is beyond the capacity of a single organization and that a partnership is required to take this forward.
“Ribble Rivers Trust has planted more than 150,000 trees across Lancashire over the last five years through the delivery of multiple woodland creation projects. The Trust believes it has the skills, knowledge and experience to lead a concerted effort to achieve significant woodland creation at a catchment scale.”
David Welsby, Chief Executive, Hyndburn Borough Council said:
“Hyndburn is one of more than 250 councils nationwide to declare a climate emergency and we are talking to a range of partners on how best to take action. Planting tens of thousands of trees across the borough is one of many initiatives we need to take on the path to carbon neutrality.
“Doing nothing is not an option and there is a strong consensus emerging across all sectors that a big step up in effective environmental actions is urgently needed. This will also act as a catalyst for increasing investment and many social benefits like improved health, natural spaces to enhance local neighbourhoods and for people to enjoy.
“We are keen to work with Ribble Rivers Trust and other partners from the public, private and voluntary sectors both locally and throughout Lancashire. And this will help Hyndburn to meet carbon reduction targets, increase natural flood management and extend recreational, training and employment opportunities across the community.”
Miranda Barker, Chief Executive of East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said:
“This ambitious, long-term strategy is a huge step towards achieving the county’s carbon reduction and climate change goals upon which both the public and private sectors are increasingly focused.
“Uniting businesses, communities, charities and individuals to plant hundreds of thousands of trees across the county will support inward investment and the wider transition to clean economic growth.”
“This exciting scheme will expand access to recreation in green spaces, create jobs in the rapidly expanding green economy and provide investment and training opportunities across the county.
Keith Ashcroft, Environment Agency Area Director for Cumbria and Lancashire
“Half a million new trees across these catchments will have an enormous impact on the quality, the health of the landscape – and how people interact with it. This ambitious scheme will improve the county’s natural ability to slow water through the catchments, which in turn will reduce soil erosion, improve water quality and improve the resilience to climate change.”
“Not only will it remove thousands of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere and improve local air quality, it will also provide greater opportunities for recreational access and make a significant contribution to improving local wildlife and importantly, people’s health and well-being.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
The Ribble Rivers Trust (RRT) is an environmental charity established in 1997 to protect and restore the rivers, streams and watercourses within the Ribble catchment and to raise public awareness of the value of our local rivers and streams.
The Ribble Catchment is the area of land that is drained by the River Ribble and its major tributaries: the Hodder, Calder, Darwen and Douglas. It covers a varied landscape stretching from the rural hills of the Yorkshire Dales and the source of the River Ribble, to major urban areas of Lancashire including Blackburn, Burnley and Preston.
Ribble Rivers Trust became a Charity in 1998 and its staff and volunteers have delivered an enormous amount of work across the 700 square-mile Ribble Catchment; from Ribblehead in the Yorkshire Dales to Preston and everywhere in between.
Initially set up as a voluntary organisation, the Trust employed its first member of staff in 2005 and established a base in Clitheroe. As part of its 20-year anniversary, the Ribble Trust has focused activities to improve and celebrate the streams and rivers of Clitheroe and the wider Ribble Valley, including this project.
For more information visit www.ribbletrust.org.uk.
Tree planting in the UK
The UK Government accepted the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) recommendation that the nation should aim for carbon neutrality – or Net Zero – by 2050. This means cutting carbon emissions as far as possible and offsetting any remaining emissions by introducing measures which absorb or trap carbon to prevent it entering the atmosphere. Planting trees is one of the most effective ways to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
In its Net Zero Policy Document, the CCC sets out how the UK gets to Net Zero, which include shifting a fifth of UK agricultural land to woodland, energy crops and peatland restoration. The CCC believes forest cover should increase from 13 per cent of UK land to 17 per cent by 2050.