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M25 of Trees – your questions answered

Want to find out more about our Tree Ring Community Forest project? Look no further with our frequently asked questions….

What is currently happening?

London’s Urban Forest Plan identified the Green Belt in 2020 as a key opportunity for woodland creation, although more detailed mapping of sites was needed. This mapping, funded by the GLA, and undertaken by CPRE London in partnership with Greenspace Information for London (GiGL) was completed at the end of August 2023.  The mapping identifies priority sites for woodland creation – avoiding areas of other precious habitat and considering land use – prioritising those where increasing tree cover is likely to have social as well as environmental benefits.  Sites have also been positively scored if sites could contribute for natural flood risk reduction or if they would help with addressing areas of current green space deprivation.  We have also excluded grade 1 or 2 agricultural land better used for local food growing.-

Is every site suitable for woodland?

A forest is not just about trees. Just like our existing woodlands, such as Epping Forest, the landscape may be varied. Some sites may be more suitable as scrub, heathland, chalk or acid grassland. The project will include community input on how woodland creation could complement other land uses, and sites be made welcoming.

Why a community forest?

Community forests are a significant resource of experience for woodland creation and advocacy. They have already made an impact in various ways across the UK, using funding from different sources. As they are partnerships between the public, NGOs and private groups, they can pool smaller pots of money for funding schemes for projects which effect real change. This includes employing specialist woodland advisors to work directly with those wanting to plant woodland.

How could the Forest improve Londoners’ wellbeing?

At 21% of London’s population, an estimated 1.87 million people in the capital lack access to a private garden according to the National Office for Statistics in 2020.  This is the highest proportion of gardenless households in the country. For people to get the health and wellbeing benefits of connecting with nature we need quality public green spaces with easy access. London’s green space has significant wellbeing benefits and has been estimated to help the city avoid healthcare costs of £952 million per year – £370m per year on mental health costs, and £582m in physical health savings.

How will the Forest support London’s climate targets?

The Forest will help London achieve its ambitious target to go carbon neutral by 2030 – complementing cuts to carbon emissions with tree planting to offset outstanding emissions. Green spaces are proven to mitigate the impact of climate change, absorbing heat, providing valuable shade, and soaking up floodwater.

Where will the land come from?

Speculators are holding on to some Green Belt sites, hoping that land values will rise, leaving the sites fenced off and often fly-tipped. Within the Community Forest, the emphasis will instead be on land sales to philanthropists or environmental bodies, which hold land for local people. Other sites are unimaginatively managed and could do more to help with climate change mitigation and adaptation. We are keen to connect with these landowners, which include local authorities, schools, hospitals, the church, the crown, and a wide range of private interests and support them to manage this land better, where possible in partnership with communities.

Who are the other partners in the project?

In phase 1 the partners will be:

In phase 2 we will expand to local authorities with Green Belt, and in phase 3 we will expand to neighbouring counties. We are also part of The London Urban Forest Partnership | London City Hall

How can locals join in?

Accessible forests encourage more people to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of time in high quality green space and explore footpaths and cycleways through the forest. Programmes will build on successful experience in encouraging more people from diverse communities to become involved. There will also be opportunities for green volunteering, offering participants the chance to shape their local landscape, learn new skills, and connect with others.

At the moment we are keen to reach people to help us identify and map potential forest sites. Please complete our survey with any potential sites you know of:

How much will it cost?

The current GLA-funded mapping programme will guide us on the scale of investment required. We are seeking DEFRA funding, but are also looking for other support. Within 5 years we will look to get the Tree Ring Community Forest to a point of financial viability where it is positioned to go independent as has been achieved in Thames Chase Community Forest – which acts as a powerful driving force for woodland creation in its project area.