Friends of the Earth reveals that local areas with lowest tree cover are neglected by government tree planting

“The UK is facing a critical shortage of trees. It’s unforgivable to see that these areas with the lowest tree cover haven’t seen significant tree planting for years."
  Published:  25 Nov 2019    |      2 minute read

With National Tree Week - and the winter tree planting season underway (started 23rd November), Friends of the Earth has today (25 Nov) revealed the areas in England with the lowest levels of tree cover. The organisation has combined historic data from Bluesky’s National Tree Map™ with data on government funded tree planting in England between 2010 and 2018 - highlighting that many of the places with low tree cover have done little in recent years to put this right.

Low tree cover is not a problem exclusive to urban areas. South Holland, Lincolnshire, was found to have the lowest levels of tree cover in England at 2.1% - even lower than The City of London, which has 4.4%. This compares to a UK average of 13%. Other rural areas such as East Riding, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire were also found among the 10 areas with the lowest level of tree cover.

Data on government supported tree planting shows that the ten areas with the lowest tree cover have not seen significant tree planting, with three out of the ten not seeing any planting at all. Even Craven’s planting of trees on 184 hectares of land in the years leading up to this is not enough to significantly increase percentage of the area covered by trees.

Table shows top 10 and bottom 10 local areas for tree cover, along with tree planting with government support

*refers to administrative boroughs and districts

Emi Murphy, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“The UK is facing a critical shortage of trees. It’s unforgivable to see that these areas with the lowest tree cover haven’t seen significant tree planting for years. Even places dense with buildings or farmland can increase their tree cover and must do so if we’re going to stop climate breakdown.

“'Recent tree-planting pledges from political parties are a start but we need to see more from them. This National Tree Week we’re calling on all political parties to commit to doubling tree cover. This is one of the key solutions to solving the climate crisis but has been neglected for years.”

Sanjay Singh, senior programmes manager at People’s Postcode Lottery (whose players have raised funds which have provided thousands of trees for Friends of the Earth planting events), said:

“The climate and nature crises need action now if we’re going to avoid it getting any worse. Thanks to support from our players, charities such as Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust and National Trust are able to plant more trees and protect woodland around the country.”

Friends of the Earth is campaigning to double UK tree cover as part of the fight against the climate crisis. The environmental group estimates that doubling tree cover will require public investment of approximately £500m per year – around 10 times current government spending on trees.

Notes

  1. Bluesky’s National Tree Map™, published in 2014, uses a combination of vertical aerial survey data, height data and colour infrared imagery to map all trees above 3m in height across England and Wales. Local authorities use this tree canopy overview as a base for mapping tree preservation orders, to prioritise leaf-clearing schedules, and to identify areas to target for tree-planting as well as other uses. For more detail visit Bluesky at www.bluesky-world.com
  2. Forestry Commission England (2019) 'New planting of trees supported by the Rural Development Programme for England, and other forms of Government support: Report for April 2010 to September 2018': available here