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York Community Woodland secured for future generations

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Published Wednesday, 8 September 2021

City of York Council have announced that the largest community woodland in England has been secured for generations to come under the management of Forestry England as preferred delivery partner.

Following the Executive Member for Climate Change and Environment Decision Session, the council have confirmed that the preferred delivery partner for York Community Woodland is Forestry England. The partnership involves Forestry England taking responsibility for woodland creation on the 194 acre site west of the city and ongoing management to a specification agreed with City of York Council through a long-term lease of up to 120 years, for which the council would receive rental income.

The woodland schedule aims to plant 50,000 trees by spring 2023 eventually increasing to 80,000 to develop the natural landscape which will be free for residents and visitors to enjoy. There is mounting evidence that links green spaces with improved health and wellbeing. With paths and open spaces, the site will provide areas for walking, play and reflection. The project will boast health and wellbeing benefits as well as promoting green jobs and increasing local biodiversity, creating a lasting legacy for centuries.

Future plans for the area include:

  • cycle paths
  • play areas
  • sensory gardens
  • wooded areas
  • wildflower meadow
  • cafe
  • commercial area
  • forestry school

The Community Woodland final design moodboard and artist visualisation can be downloaded and viewed on the council website.

Cllr Keith Aspden, Leader of City of York Council, said;

This is a significant milestone in our journey to building a cleaner, greener city here in York. York Community Woodland is an historic achievement which will benefit the city and its residents for centuries to come.

“Our target to be a carbon net-zero city by 2030 is ambitious. It is only through bold steps and innovation that we can achieve this. I have been delighted by the public support for the woodland and can’t wait to see the first trees taking root in the coming months.”

Cllr Paula Widdowson, Executive Member for Climate Change and Environment, said;

Wildlife and green spaces have the ability to improve our wellbeing, purify our air and bring communities together.

“It is so important that we create spaces for leisure and community projects that residents can enjoy for free. This is why York Community Woodland is such a flagship scheme for our city; demonstrating not only our commitment to change our behaviours but also to change our landscape to boost our local biodiversity, generate green jobs and increase carbon capture across the city.

“Whilst the woodland will provide around 80,000 trees we have set a city-wide target to increase tree canopy cover in York by 10 per cent by 2050. This target equates to approximately increasing York’s tree population by 10,000 a year. We need residents to join with us and take action to increase York’s tree population. The city could be well on its way to reaching this target if every household in York which had space, either in a garden, allotment or park, planted just one tree!”

Jim Lee, Head of Woodland Creation, Forestry England said;

We are delighted to have been selected as the preferred delivery partner for York Community Woodland and look forward to working closely with City of York Council and the local community as the project moves through the next stages.

"We look after 52,000 acres of land in the Yorkshire region and want to give the people of York an inspiring woodland at Knapton to explore and enjoy. As well as providing health and wellbeing benefits to the community, this woodland will create valuable habitats for wildlife and store carbon in the trees we grow.

“Expanding the nation’s forests is an important part of Forestry England’s work and is supported by the Government’s Nature for Climate Fund. The partnership with City of York Council, if confirmed in the next stages, will be the first site delivered by The Forestry England Woodland Partnership and so is particularly special to us.”

Residents can enjoy guided walks around the site during York Environment Week as part of York Walking Festival, on 21 and 25 September. To find out more residents can sign up via the York Environment Week website, join the Woodland keep informed mailing list on the council website or follow the council on social media. Next steps for the woodland project include planting 17,500 trees and creating the main pathways from November 2021.

In July 2020 the council joined the government’s Northern Forest initiative which aims to plant 50 million new trees across the north of England. The initiative is a partnership between the Woodland Trust, Forestry Commission and other organisations committed to tree-planting across the North of England including White Rose Forest which covers the Leeds City Region and York.

The council successfully secured £110,000 grant from White Rose Forest to support initial project management of the Woodland site, this helped provide site assessment, concept design and community engagement underpinning the final proposals for the area. The council has also benefitted from expert advice and guidance from woodland professionals directly funded by White Rose Forest.