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A project which will see 1.6 million trees planted over the next ten years as part of the Thames Chase Community Forest - which covers parts of the east end of London and Essex - was announced today by Forestry Commission Director General David Bills.
Forest Enterprise - an agency of the Forestry Commission - is set to launch a major tree-planting initiative on a stretch of land next to the M25 over one and a half thousand times the size of Wembley football pitch, Mr Bills told representatives of Thames Chase. Thames Chase is one of 12 Community Forest projects led by the Countryside Commission and the Forestry Commission close to urban areas in England.
About half of the area to be planted will be former industrial land which has been reclaimed and restored. As the woodlands take shape, this will bring an enormous difference to the surrounding communities. Attractive, green woodlands will replace derelict land. A mixture of tree species will be planted and open areas will be incorporated in the design process to encourage different species of wildlife. A new network of footpaths, cycle trails, car parks and toilets will complement facilities in the existing woodlands.
Mr Bills said:
Planting on the 1,200 hectares (about 3,000 acres) earmarked for the project will begin in autumn 1999, and Forest Enterprise will appoint a full-time forester to work on the project with the Thames Chase project team.
"This is an important contribution by Forest Enterprise. It goes a long way to realise the vision for Thames Chase. It brings the prospect of a better environment for local people living in a densely populated area. It promises a place where local people and visitors to Thames Chase can enjoy their leisure time and enjoy a much improved landscape.
"The woodlands will be designed with the active help and involvement of local people. I want them to influence the future development of the forest. Make no mistake, this will be very much a partnership project, with the Forestry Commission working closely with others who share this vision for Thames Chase."
John Meehan, director of Thames Chase Community Forest, welcomed the news:
A 14 per cent increase in woodland cover has been seen in the Thames Chase Forest designated area since the Community Forest project began in 1990. This latest initiative will see a further 63 per cent increase in woodland cover over the next ten years.
"I am delighted that local people will now see trees being planted much sooner than had been envisaged. This initiative shows that Forest Enterprise is putting its shoulder behind the community forest. The creation of a sizeable forest where people have freedom to roam within 15 miles of the centre of London illustrates the uniqueness of this project."
Improvements by the Thames Chase team have seen derelict land restored, new public access agreements put in place, and new cycle, horse-riding and walking trails added. Education and organised events are another important element of the team's work.
Earlier Mr Bills paid tribute to achievements thus far in Thames Chase:
Stressing the importance of a partnership approach, Mr Bills continued:
"Thames Chase is one of 12 Community Forests in England. The Community Forest Programme is one of the most exciting projects for delivering economic, social and environmental regeneration of the countryside in and around our major urban areas. What has really struck me today is that this is not an idle dream. It is real and tangible - the Community Forests can make a difference. And in Thames Chase you are already making a difference."
Partnering Mr Bills in celebrating the good news, 16 local children released 160 balloons, symbolising the 1.6 million trees to be planted. The children have been actively involved in Thames Chase through their local schools.
"In Thames Chase you have shown how partnerships can deliver your vision. At the strategic level, policy makers and implementors in the public, private and voluntary sectors have been brought together. At the local level the Forest Forum allows people who live, work and spend their leisure time in Thames Chase to contribute their knowledge and expertise."
Notes to news/picture editors:
Media Enquiries: Jane Murray 0131 314-6508 / 07771 730509
- Anglia News Agency acted as 'host' photographer: Contact: 01206 797961.
- Forest Enterprise is the agency of the Forestry Commission which manages the 1.1 million hectares of Forestry Commission land across Britain.
- Thames Chase Community Forest was set up in 1990. The Forest area covers 9,842 hectares (24,320 acres/38 square miles) straddling the M25 between Brentwood to the north and Thurrock to the south.