A competition for a new national forest will be launched by Environment Secretary Steve Barclay this week as part of an ambitious package to help people across the country access nature.
Communities will be able to put their local areas forward to become a new national forest, with the winning location receiving up to £10 million to help fund the project.
This will build on the success of the National Forest in the Midlands, which spans 200 square miles across parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Staffordshire.
Applicants will be assessed based on how the new forest would transform the local area, create habitats for wildlife open up access to the countryside, and help the country meet net zero targets.
The competition will launch this year with successful bids to be announced by autumn 2024.
This is the latest step in the Government’s plans to help people access nature, plant more trees and support nature recovery. Since joining the department earlier this month the Environment Secretary has set out his ambition to help more people get into the outdoors, enjoy the British countryside and preserve our vital natural heritage.
The Environment Secretary will be attending COP28 next month, where he will set out further action to achieve our ambitious targets to restore the natural world.
Setting out the plans Steve Barclay said:”Public access to nature is so vital, which is why we pledged in our Environmental Improvement Plan that everyone should have access to green space or water within a 15-minute walk from their home – such as woodlands, wetlands, parks or rivers. This new forest for the nation will help make that happen.
“As a former Health Secretary, I have seen the benefits that nature has for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. Bringing these spaces closer to where people live and work is a key priority for me personally.”