Midlands Receives Funding to Develop Ambitious Regional Woodland Project

Date posted: August 2, 2023
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Forest in Derbyshire 1 – Credit Luke Stott

Funding for the development of an ambitious project to create and connect our woodlands across the Midlands region has been announced, with the aim of increasing habitats for wildlife, improving wellbeing for communities and growing more low carbon jobs.

The Midlands Forest Network (MFN) is a forward-thinking initiative to encourage greater protection, restoration, and creation of woods and trees across the whole Midlands region. Led by a partnership of the Woodland Trust, National Forest Company, and Midlands Engine, the MFN seeks to expand our existing woodlands and connect them through new wooded corridors in the farmed landscape, within towns and cities and along our transport networks.

This ambitious project has now secured £230k from Defra’s Nature for Climate Fund and nearly £200k from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with additional financial support from the National Forest Company, Woodland Trust, and Midlands Engine.

Funding over the next two years will create a visionary plan for the MFN, working closely with existing partners and communities to identify opportunities for further woodland creation, exploring people’s connections to trees and woods and building momentum around opportunities for attracting new investment.

John Everitt, chief executive The National Forest Company, said:Our work in the National Forest over the last 30 years demonstrates how trees and woods can regenerate the landscape and transform lives and livelihoods. Expanding this approach across the whole Midlands gives us real hope that we can mitigate and adapt to a changing climate, reversing biodiversity decline, improving the health of communities and shifting to a low carbon economy.

“Thanks to funding from Defra and the National Lottery Heritage Fund we can now take a big step forward in making the Midlands Forest Network a reality.”

With the pressing challenges of climate change, nature loss and ill health, the need for woodland creation and connection has never been more critical. The Midlands region currently falls below the national average of 13.3 percent* woodland cover at just 7.4 percent.

Toby Bancroft, Woodland Trust regional director said: “At a time where the threats from climate change and loss of nature are increasingly impacting our lives, there has never been a more critical time to recognise the role and secure the benefits woods and trees bring to nature’s recovery and our own health and wellbeing”.

“The Midlands Forest Network is ambitious, it needs to be, and this crucial first phase will show how the Midlands can lead in the delivery of real change, embedding nature in economic, social and environmental policy and delivery.”

Sir John Peace, chairman, Midlands Engine Partnership explained: “The Midlands Engine Partnership is committed to green growth, encouraging investment in economic sectors and natural assets that decarbonise our region and help to build a sustainable, resilient economy.

“In the Midlands, we are fortunate to already be home to a number of significant woodlands such as Sherwood Forest, Cannock Chase and the National Forest. Yet, as we face both a climate emergency and biodiversity crisis, we still lag behind the rest of the UK for average woodland cover. This makes the Midlands Forest Network project all the more vital and I am delighted that this funding will now be used to develop such an exciting vision and attract investment into this crucial natural capital asset for the region.

The Midlands Forest Network will also stimulate new opportunities for individual landowners and organisations to contribute to the Government’s tree planting efforts. By collaborating with councils, planners, farmers, landowners and charities, the MFN will help identify the right places for planting and where this can have the biggest benefit.

Trudy Harrison, Forestry Minister, said: “Projects like the Midlands Forest Network are vital in ensuring communities can make the most of the environmental and health benefits that expanded woodlands can bring.

“With the help of the government’s Nature for Climate Fund, tree planting will increase across the Midlands region, helping to meet our target to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament and achieve net zero by 2050.”

The social and cultural benefits of trees and woods are also central to the Midlands Forest Network, ensuring that the benefits are felt by those in urban and rural areas, more diverse communities or those unable to easily access greenspace on their doorstep.

Robyn Llewellyn, Director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said:

“It’s wonderful to hear how the team at The Woodland Trust, National Forest Company and Midlands Engine are exploring connections to woodlands by developing the Midlands Forest Network. Thanks to National Lottery players, we are able to support important work, such as establishing the foundations to facilitate positive change at landscape scale for natural heritage.”

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