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National Tree Week: Friends of the Earth reveals areas with lowest tree cover are neglected by government tree planting

news release

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With National Tree Week – and the winter tree planting season underway (started 23rd November), Friends of the Earth has today (25 Nov) revealed the areas in England with the lowest levels of tree cover. The organisation has combined historic data from Bluesky’s National Tree Map™ with data on government funded tree planting in England between 2010 and 2018 – highlighting that many of the places with low tree cover have done little in recent years to put this right.

Low tree cover is not a problem exclusive to urban areas. South Holland, Lincolnshire, was found to have the lowest levels of tree cover in England at 2.1% – even lower than The City of London, which has 4.4%. This compares to a UK average of 13%. Other rural areas such as East Riding, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire were also found among the 10 areas with the lowest level of tree cover.

Data on government supported tree planting shows that the ten areas with the lowest tree cover have not seen significant tree planting, with three out of the ten not seeing any planting at all. Even Craven’s planting of trees on 184 hectares of land in the years leading up to this is not enough to significantly increase percentage of the area covered by trees.

Bottom 10 for tree cover  
Local area*Tree cover (%) Land planted with trees with government support 2010-2018
  Hectares% tree cover increase
South Holland2.110.001
City of London4.400
East Riding of Yorkshire4.9510.02
East Cambridgeshire5.3160.02
Top 10 for tree cover  
Surrey Heath40.600
Bracknell Forest39.800
Mole Valley36.800
Neath Port Talbot32Data not available for Wales
New Forest31.4200.03

*refers to administrative boroughs and districts

Emi Murphy, trees campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“The UK is facing a critical shortage of trees. It’s unforgivable to see that these areas with the lowest tree cover haven’t seen significant tree planting for years. Even places dense with buildings or farmland can increase their tree cover and must do so if we’re going to stop climate breakdown.

“’Recent tree-planting pledges from political parties are a start but we need to see more from them. This National Tree Week we’re calling on all political parties to commit to doubling tree cover. This is one of the key solutions to solving the climate crisis but has been neglected for years.”

Sanjay Singh, senior programmes manager at People’s Postcode Lottery (whose players have raised funds providing thousands of trees for Friends of the Earth planting events), said:

“The climate and nature crises need action now if we’re going to avoid it getting any worse. Thanks to support from our players, charities such as Friends of the Earth, Woodland Trust and National Trust are able to plant more trees and protect woodland around the country.”

Friends of the Earth is campaigning to double UK tree cover as part of the fight against the climate crisis. The environmental group estimates that doubling tree cover will require public investment of approximately £500m per year – around 10 times current government spending on trees.  

Friends of the Earth is supporting community tree planting events in Oxford, Enfield, Manchester and Nottingham during National Tree Week (23rd – 30th November). For more information on these check out the events section on the Friends of the Earth Facebook page.


For more information contact the Friends of the Earth press office on 020 7566 1649 / 07718 394786 (out of hours – please do not text this number)

Notes to editors

  1. Bluesky’s National Tree Map™, published in 2014, uses a combination of vertical aerial survey data, height data and colour infrared imagery to map all trees above 3m in height across England and Wales. Local authorities use this tree canopy overview as a base for mapping tree preservation orders, to prioritise leaf-clearing schedules, and to identify areas to target for tree-planting as well as other uses. For more detail visit Bluesky at
  2. Forestry Commission England (2019) ‘New planting of trees supported by the Rural Development Programme for England, and other forms of Government support: Report for April 2010 to September 2018’: available here                        
  3. Places with high levels of agricultural land, such as South Holland, would be able to increase their tree cover through techniques like agroforestry – planting trees on farmland. This can boost revenues for farmers. Urban areas such as the City of London can increase tree cover by planting more street trees, which would also help to bring temperatures down during hot weather.
  4. The environmental group has also released analysis showing the governments of England, Wales and Scotland spend less than £1 per person per year on trees. This drops to just 20p per head when focussing on England. Read Public funding for UK trees, woodlands and forests by Friends of the Earth’s insight team
  5. In 2017-18, government funding for planting and management of trees, woodland and forestry in England, Scotland and Wales fell to around £56 million. Northern Ireland funding pushes that figure closer to £60 million a year but even allowing for an increase in Scottish forestry budgets in 2019-20, UK governments are only spending less than £1 per person per year on trees.
  6. Friends of the Earth wants to double tree cover as part of our fight against climate chaos. Find out more about Friends of the Earth’s tree campaign and sign the petition calling for the next government to double tree cover by visiting
  7. About Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.
  8. Friends of the Earth’s campaign to double tree cover is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

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