A new forest spanning the equivalent of 650 football pitches has been given the green light, in what will be England’s largest woodland-planting scheme in decades, officials said.

More than 600,000 trees, a mixture of broadleaf and conifers consisting mainly of spruce, birch, pine and oak, will be planted at Doddington North Moor, near Wooler in Northumberland, over the next two years.

The 350-hectare (860-acre) forest will be the largest of its kind planted in England for more than 30 years, and has been given the go-ahead by the Forestry Commission.

The scheme, which has been developed with the help of Government funding and will receive grants for planting, will help red squirrel populations, store 120,000 tonnes of carbon, help manage flood risk and boost timber industry businesses and jobs.

Environment minister Therese Coffey said: “Our forests and woodlands are some of our most vital and cherished natural assets, and planting more trees is at the heart of our ambition to protect the environment for future generations.

“Doddington North Moor will make a significant contribution to our drive to plant 11 million trees across the nation and is a fantastic example of the kind of tree-planting schemes we want to see more of.

“I hope this will signal a wave of similar projects to come forward and help other landowners realise the benefits of woodland creation.”

Richard Greenhous, director of forest services at the Forestry Commission, said: “We stand ready to support more large-scale woodland creation projects that will deliver the Government’s and the forestry sector’s ambitions to plant more trees across the country.”

Andy Howard, Doddington North Moor project manager, said: “I’m delighted that we have gained approval from the Forestry Commission for our afforestation project at Doddington North.

“There needs to be a major uplift in the planting of new woodlands in England, and hopefully us starting to plant trees at Doddington and the lessons learnt from the application process can unlock interest from further potential applicants.”

Planting of the new forest is expected to begin in March and take place over the next two to three years.

PA