More than 1,200 trees will be planted at six sites in Thanet in a £1million project headed up by new group The Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative (ITTWI)
The ITTWI has successfully secured £525,000 from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund – overseen by the Forestry Commission – plus £100,000 funding support from RiverOak Strategic Partners. alongside £430,000 labour ‘in kind,’ making a total project value of £1,055,000.
The group is made up of St Anthony’s School teacher and Thanet Community Forest School founder Luke Evans, Colourful Margate lead Stephanie Nsom; Peter Hasted of the Sunken Garden Society; Steve Darling of Dane Valley Woods and Thanet councillor Ash Ashbee. The group is supported by isle volunteers, businesses and community organisations.
The Urban Tree Challenge Fund was set up in response to the Government’s 25 year Environmental Plan as a means of re-greening some the UK’s districts with low tree canopy coverage.
Thanet has the lowest tree canopy out of any district in the whole of the UK with just 4.4%. In comparison, London has a 29% tree canopy.
The ground-breaking ITTWI project will plant trees across the six sites at Dane Valley Woods; George Park; Dane Park; The Sunken Gardens Westbrook;Dane Valley Green and the Dane Valley Woods old landfill site, resulting in a significant positive environmental and health impact. It is thought to be the biggest tree planting project to ever take place in Thanet.
ITTWI submitted the bid, enabled by the financial pledge from RSP and the support of Thanet District Council, to the Forestry Commission in July. It has now been confirmed that the application has been successful.
The funding means in excess of 1,200 trees of various varieties and maturity will be planted over a period of two years and maintained for their early years. The programme will count towards a large reduction in Thanet’s CO2 emissions, also helping to improve the quality of life and health of local communities and enhance the conservation and sustainability of the environment.
A spokesperson for ITTWI said: “The ITTWI team is excited to be playing a major part in providing a positive outcome for the expansion of trees and woodlands in Thanet.
“The planting and maintenance programme will require a significant contribution from the local communities to ensure a successful outcome for the project.”
Over the next couple of weeks, ITTWI will closely liaise with TDC and its partners to set-up the required structures and processes in order to deliver the planting of the first hundreds of trees by March 2020. ITTWI will organise the planting events and ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute.
Luke Evans, who is the lead applicant, said: “We have all put a great deal of time and effort into this project behind the scenes and it is amazing to see it all come together, especially at this time of the year as it is our Christmas present to the people of Thanet.
“I would like to thank everybody who has been involved with ITTWI to date and look forward to working with more and more people in our local and wider community as this project keeps growing.
“Please follow us on social media and in the news for updates of all our planting times and dates as we will be needing as much support from the community as possible to deliver the largest tree planting project in Thanet’s history.”
Frances Tophill (pictured below with Luke Evans), who presents BBC Gardeners World alongside Monty Don, has agreed to be the patron of ITTWI.
She said: “Trees are fantastic beings. Not only do they look amazing, they house thousands of species that rely on the food and shelter they provide. And I strongly believe that includes us.
“To live and work and visit a space that is filled with bird song and rustling leaves, colour and escape from the bustle of the world around us nourishes all our lives.
“The work that ITTWI is doing will create beauty and a haven for nature in an area that so desperately needs it. I’m proud to be a part of a project that makes Kent greener, educating and enriching the lives of the people as they interact with the natural world right on their doorstep.”
Director of RiverOak Strategic Partners, Niall Lawlor added: “RSP is committed to investing in the long term future of Thanet – not just in the airport, but in its people, communities and the environment too. We are delighted to be involved in the Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative to increase the amount of woodland across six key sites in Thanet, with all of the attendant health, social and environmental impacts this will bring.
“We see this as a tangible opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to reopening Manston in a balanced and responsible way and look forward to participating in the delivery of the initiative in the months and years ahead.”
The official ITTWI launch event will take place at Dane Park on January 11 and Frances Tophill will plant the first tree.
The ITTWI partner organisations aim to work towards the group becoming a lead charity in Thanet responsible for significant tree planting.