Wakefield's Woodland Creation

We are going to be planting 2.6 million trees – enough to fill 2,000 football pitches!

Wakefield Council declared a climate change emergency in May 2019 and as a result we set out this ambitious target to plant trees in over 1,300 hectares of land. See below for more about the project and the positive impacts this will have on the district.

This tree planting initiative started in 2020 and will continue to run over the next 30 years until 2050. Wakefield's current tree cover is 4,778 hectares (or 14.1% of the district) and this work will increase tree cover in the district by 28% to a total of 6,101 hectares (or 18%). The short term targets are to plant 240 hectares of woodland by 2025. This will help us attain our vision of a greener and more biodiverse Wakefield that will provide habitats for wildlife, and amenity for our residents.

Photo credit:  Ian Byrom

The White Rose Forest

swimming lessons

Wakefield Council is a member of the White Rose Forest partnership, helping to grow the community forest for West and North Yorkshire and increase woodland across the region by a third. The White Rose Forest is also the largest of the community forests that are helping to create the new Northern Forest stretching across Merseyside, Manchester and Yorkshire.
Collectively the partnership have committed to planting 50 million trees across this region over the next 25 years. This will transform our landscapes, making our communities more prosperous, beautiful, biodiverse, and more able to cope with (and mitigate) the effects of climate change.

For information on the White Rose Forest click here.

Photo credit:  Derek Beadnell

Why is tree planting so important to Wakefield?

There are numerous benefits of tree planting across the three pillars of sustainability, which cover the environment, the economy, and society:

Environmental Benefits

  • From an environmental perspective, trees take up and store carbon dioxide. Planting trees in a woodland and allowing those trees to grow and reach maturity means that the carbon dioxide they take from the atmosphere remains locked up in their structure. This reduces the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is crucial in the fight against climate change as carbon dioxide is one of the key greenhouse gases responsible for global warming.
  • As a local authority, we are committed to becoming carbon neutral. Planting trees to offset our carbon dioxide emissions will play a key role in achieving this objective.
  • Another environmental benefit to creating woodland in our district will be the effect trees have on our air quality. Part of the photosynthesis process in plants releases oxygen which when done on a large scale improves our air quality and goes some way towards offsetting the pollutants put into our atmosphere by vehicles, machinery, industry, chimneys etc.
  • There is also evidence to suggest that trees can absorb harmful pollutants such as particulate matter (PM10), nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide from the atmosphere, and from the soil – this is particularly pertinent in our district which has a long industrial history.
  • Trees also cool the surrounding area through shading and evapotranspiration which is the process that puts water into the atmosphere through a combination of evaporation and transpiration from a surface area to the atmosphere. These surface areas can be the soil, water bodies, and tree canopies. This is a crucial process in the water cycle that accounts for around 15% if the water vapour in the atmosphere – without it clouds wouldn't form and therefore there would be no rainfall and of course life on earth would be jeopardised. Increased canopy cover and increased evapotranspiration therefore can help us mitigate against the effects of those extremely dry spells in summer, and offer a cooler microclimate in the immediate surrounding area. Not only this, but the transpiration part of evapotranspiration can help pull moisture from the ground and so is a vital process in flood mitigation too.
  • Furthermore, there is a huge benefit we achieve from creating woodland in that it increases and enhances biodiversity across our district. Increasing biodiversity not only makes our areas more pleasant to spend time in, but most importantly offers critical habitats for many species which are in decline. In fact a recent study (which can be found heresuggests that woodland bird species have declined by over a quarter since the 1970s.
  • The careful and considerate creation of woodland can help to increase the numbers of our declining and most threatened species, from birds and plants to various bees and butterflies. This will make our local wildlife and habitats more environmentally-stable and resilient, which is crucial in helping them to adapt to climate change. Ultimately, biodiverse and environmentally-rich environments make human life on Earth possible, as they ensure the continued creation of food and clean water and they provide a multitude of other vital ecosystem services. Learn more about the importance of biodiversity here.
Deputy leader for the Council and portfolio holder for Climate Change and Green Spaces Jack Hemingway offers further reflection on the importance of biodiversity and green spaces, and what we are doing to improve our natural environment across the district.

Economic Benefits

  • There have been many studies into the economic benefits of woodland creation. One key benefit is the reduced costs of reactive flood mitigation services and the reduced costs associated with the aftermath of serious flood events. Tree planting provides an important ecosystem service through flood risk mitigation. As tree root systems strengthen soil structure, increase  the soils' capacity for water absorption and storage, and allow water to be intercepted within the tree canopy before it even gets to the ground, which spreads the effects of rainfall over a longer time period and allows  some water to evaporate back into the atmosphere directly from the canopy, planting trees has the potential to reduce the risk and severity of flooding. This is particularly relevant to Wakefield as the past few years have seen more frequent and severe flooding in our district.
  • It is also a well-documented phenomenon that when woodlands are planted and established, the nearby houses in residential areas increase their market value. Also, greenspaces and natural environments within an area are proven to attract businesses and investment to the area.

Social Benefits

  • From a social perspective, the White Rose Forest and the Northern Forest projects intend to promote the various physical and mental health benefits of woodland creation.
  • Walking through woodlands has been proven to lower stress and anxiety, and increase feelings of calm and emotional wellbeing. The Japanese practice of forest bathing (or Shinrin Yoku) acknowledges these psychological and emotional benefits.
  • As well as individual mental health and wellbeing, we envisage that our woodland creation across the district will bring together communities and the people within. This will be done through encouraging volunteering and involving local communities in the planting and maintenance of woodland sites. This will foster a sense of community pride, encourage the development of friendship between participants and build woodland for future generations to enjoy.

What areas will we be planting in?

We will be planting at a huge variety of types of sites – from small copses in residential areas to large multi-compartment woodlands in sites 10+ hectares in size. Each site from the smallest to the largest will be planned, consulted on, and designed to suit the local environment and the needs of the local people.

This map shows the district and the different phases that the tree planting is at.

What tree species will we be planting?

  • The Royal Botanical Gardens recently published their '10 Golden Rules of Tree Planting' which can be found here. One of the 'golden rules' is to plant the right trees in the right place. More specifically this means planting native trees found in the area, which won't become invasive.
  • We will be planting a mixture of broadleaved and coniferous woodland. We will be planting native woodland in line with environmental recommendations.
  • Through the research and planning stage for sites identified for tree planting, we research the soil composition, whether it is acidic/calcareous, how prone the area is to flooding etc., and from these environmental factors we can identify which tree species are likely to thrive in these conditions.
  • An informative resource we use is the National Vegetation Classification guide to woodland which can be found here.
  • Also, the Trees and Design Action Group have published a comprehensive document detailing a vast array of tree species and the environmental conditions they need/do well under. To read more click here.

Working with our partners

  • We are working closely with other local authorities, and our partners such as the Woodland Trust and Yorkshire Water, in order to deliver this project in our district.
  • We will work closely with volunteer groups and with schools to encourage community involvement (another of the 10 Golden Rules of Tree Planting – engage with the local community)
  • We work with our Tree Warden, Roger Parkinson, who has a wealth of experience and incredible passion for tree planting and community engagement. He coordinates a number of volunteers and also works with local schools to educate and inspire the next generation of tree enthusiasts!
  • We also work with Trees for Cities, a charity that plants trees to combat climate change and revitalise local communities Home | Trees for Cities

Contact us

Are you interested in volunteering your time or a business looking for opportunities to support the district?

You can also follow our climate change social media channels, where we will publicise the latest details with any volunteering opportunities and more information on our woodland creations.

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