A NEW coastal community forest - which will eventually be the size of 7,000 football pitches - is set to be created in Cumbria.

The announcement today will see an initial 150 hectares of trees, woodlands and forests planted, with the equivalent of one tree planted for every resident in Copeland, Barrow and Allerdale over the next five years.

The longer term aim, according to Defra, England's Community Forest and Cumbria County Council, is to create a minimum of 5,000 hectares of new woodland along a 56-mile stretch of the western coast of Cumbria over the next 25 years - the size of almost 7,000 football pitches.

The project, launched as National Tree Week begins, has received a £220,000 boost from Defra's Nature for Climate Fund to kickstart planting in the next year.

By growing trees where they are most needed, corridors of woodlands will be created along the west coast of Cumbria from Barrow to Carlisle which will better connect 65 miles of coastal communities to nature, helping people to enjoy the benefits of being out close to trees and woodlands.

The proposed area of Cumbria where the forest will be planted has high levels of economic and social deprivation and only 9.9 percent woodland cover – three percent below the national average, and so the new forest will contribute towards the government’s mission to 'level up' across the country by improving living standards and wellbeing, increasing access to nature and providing job opportunities in new woodland creation through planting, establishing and managing trees in rural and urban settings.

The Trees for Climate programme helps to support a range of jobs in the environmental sector, including land agents, woodland contractors and those employed in the tree supply chain.

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Lord Goldsmith, Forestry Minister, said: “This announcement further expands and strengthens England’s network of Community Forests.

"All across the country, we are growing more trees and woodland than ever before in and around some of England’s most deprived and less green communities.

“Forests are vital for the future of our planet. This exciting new project will contribute towards our commitment to treble tree-planting rates by the end of this Parliament – together, we will put down roots, benefitting generations to come.”

Councillor Celia Tibble, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member for environment, said: “This is incredibly exciting, and I’m delighted that the county council will be taking the lead role in this initiative.

"Trees and woodlands are vital in our fight against climate change but not only this; they also provide far reaching physical and mental health benefits too. Being able to connect local people with local nature without the need to travel will be fantastic.”

This announcement forms part of the Government’s wider action to recover and restore nature, as part of the 25 Year Environment Plan and commitments to reach net zero by 2050.

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Jez Westgarth, Lakes Future Farming Programme Manager from the National Trust, said: “We have been delighted to support the development of this exciting initiative, that will provide local opportunities for people to enjoy nature and beauty within easy reach of where they live and work.

"Through a range of different opportunities that the community forest will provide, we can help support and encourage everyone to be able to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature and the great outdoors.

Neville Elstone from Cumbria Woodlands, added: “The development of Community Forests will provide a rich local focal point to attract visitors and make the area a more attractive location to live and work.

"Importantly, it’s not just increasing woodland cover. It’s about opportunity, engagement and enjoyment for local communities and visitors alike.

"The complimentary opportunities for green jobs, nature recovery, carbon storage and environmental resilience are endless.”