Lancashire Times
A Voice of the North
11:05 AM 27th September 2021

Riverbanks And Watercourses To Be Planted With New Woodland

Over 3,000 hectares of new woodlands are set to be planted along England’s rivers and watercourses with backing from the country’s leading environmental organisations, Forestry Minister Lord Goldsmith announced (Saturday 25 September).

Planting trees on and around riverbanks, or allowing them to grow naturally, can help to improve water quality by blocking the runoff of pollutants into rivers, manage flood risks by slowing the flow of water, boost biodiversity by creating new habitat corridors and make our rivers more climate resilient by providing shade and cooling water temperatures.

There are 242,262km of watercourses in England, and it is hoped that by planting trees in this way they will contribute to a natural network of habitats across the country as part of our plans to expand, improve and connect these places across our towns, cities and countryside.

The Woodlands For Water project aims to create 3,150 hectares of trees in six river catchment areas from Devon to Cumbria by March 2025. To support farmers and landowners to create these woodlands, they will be able to apply for funding through the England Woodland Creation Offer grant which provides greater financial incentives for landowners and farmers to plant and manage trees, including along rivers and watercourses.
Commenting on the announcement, CLA President Mark Bridgeman said:
“This new woodland creation partnership is a real boost for the sector.

“It will enable private landowners to work alongside institutional landowners to plant more trees in the six river catchments which, if planted in the right place, will help reduce water pollution, address flood risk and boost nature recovery.

“It’s definitely worth private landowners making the most of the grants through the England Woodland Creation Offer as they cover the costs of planting, provide flexibility on what you can plant and where and there are financial incentives for delivering public benefits. It’s schemes like this which are key to achieving biodiversity recovery.”

Supported by Defra, the project will be carried out by the ‘Riverscapes’ Partnership comprising of experts from the Rivers Trust, National Trust, Woodland Trust and Beaver Trust, which will be on hand to provide expert assistance in the selected river catchment areas across England, ensuring there is pipeline of projects for riparian planting in future years.

The Rivers Trust Chief Executive Officer Mark Lloyd said:
"The Riverscapes Partnership brings together leading national organisations who want to revive our rivers, restore nature and increase our resilience to droughts and floods.

"Woodlands for Water is a very exciting first project for the partnership to work with Defra to meet the government’s targets on tree planting and its commitment to leave the environment in a better state for the next generation.

"By planting the right trees in the right places, we can tackle multiple problems and provide multiple benefits: more nature, less flooding, more carbon locked up in trees and soils, fewer droughts, less pollution, more wild places for people to enjoy. We hope that this project will be the pathfinder for a route map to the revival of rivers and their catchment areas that can benefit every corner of England, and the rest of the UK."

The National Trust’s Director of Land and Nature Harry Bowell said:
"With 90 per cent of UK floodplains not fit for purpose and creating flood issues for communities, we fully recognise the value of trees to our river corridors in helping to slow flood waters, soak up carbon and keep rivers cool in the face of rising temperatures.

This work will enhance the projects we already have underway where our primary focus has been the conservation and health of the river channel itself. This partnership and funding will allow us to look at the wider river corridor to further enhance this work.

James Wallace, Beaver Trust Chief Executive Officer, said:
"As members of the Riverscapes partnership with Defra, we are delighted to be a part of this first big first step towards paying farmers to create a nature recovery network of mosaic habitats along our rivers, working together to breathe life back into our land.

"We hope in time farmers will be incentivised not only to plant trees but to create wetlands, floodplain meadows and other spaces for natural processes and wildlife to regenerate in riparian buffer zones.

"Collaboration between Government, industry, landowners, communities, and the NGO sector is key if we are to help communities build resilience to the climate and the ecological emergency. The Riverscapes partnership looks forward to helping engage the farming community, connecting landowners with each other and much-needed public money, and developing systemic solutions like blended finance, empowering rapid change in how we manage our rivers and land."

This announcement is a key action of the recently published England Trees Action Plan which outlined the Government’s strategy to get more trees in the ground that will help to deliver wide ranging benefits for nature, climate and people, and contributes towards the commitment to treble planting rates in England by the end of this Parliament.

Outside of the catchments targeted by this new Riverscapes Partnership, Defra’s other Woodland Creation Partnerships are supporting land owners to plant trees to meet a range of objectives, including along watercourses.