Sunderland City Council and partners (the Woodland Trust, the Forestry Commission as well as Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council, South Tyneside Council, North Tyneside Council and Durham County Council), recently submitted a successful bid to England Community Forests and DEFRA to become a prospective community forest. The North East Community Forest partnership will plant 500 hectares deliverable by 2025.
The implementation of the 'North East Community Forest', as well as increasing other green infrastructure and nature-based solutions will reduce exposure to environmental toxins, improve physical and mental wellbeing, increased green space usage, mitigate flood risk, preserve and increase biodiversity, sequester carbon amongst and improve water quality amongst other benefits.
Ultimately, the NECF will aim to almost double existing tree canopy cover across the area, to around 30% by 2050. It also covers a land area where 1.3 million people live.
First of all, ensure that your project has buy-in within your own organisation, and right from the top. New ways of working can sometimes meet with resistance, and it is important to ensure that that key messages are filtered down throughout the business.
Work in partnership with others. The six LAs have come together, worked together and are stronger because of it. Joint funding submissions have already paid off, not only with the acceptance and creation of the NECF but with further success on woodland funding that probably would not have been attained by an individual authority. There are lots of organisations to link into that support woodland and forest growth, including Government departments, regional authorities, specialists in woodland and wood-meadow, specialists in climate change. It is also crucial to engage with local politicians, community groups and residents. A project of this scale needs to find the right balance to enable a smaller group of officers to coordinate and develop the project whilst also being able to engage with wider groups to ensure that ‘ownership is broad and inclusive'.
Work with specialists/experts to address potential pitfalls, be organised and thorough, devise and agree a route map to scheme delivery. Nurture colleagues and work together to solve problems and potential issues of conflict. Listen to past problems and learn from past mistakes – e.g. previous forest development projects that ran out of funding. Not just about planting trees but finding ways to better manage our existing woodlands, so that they are healthier woodlands in themselves, so that they maximise carbon sequestering and storage, are accessible and attractive to local residents, help to reduce the impacts of flash flooding, air pollution and heat extremes.
Hectares of trees planted across the region.
Tonnes of carbon sequestered.