Woodland Trust says trees must be put at the heart of local plans

The economic and wellbeing benefits of trees should be given greater recognition in local neighbourhood planning, according to a conservation charity.

The Woodland Trust has urged people across Norfolk to involve themselves in the creation of local plans which could influence where new housing, transport, and services are built in their area.

Within those discussions, the trust hopes to raise awareness of the importance of including trees and woods as part of those growing communities.

The trust says woodlands can raise house prices, reduce household bills, boost tourism and create wildlife habitats and play areas for children – all while helping to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Victoria Bankes Price, the trust's planning adviser, said: 'The benefits of trees to communities are numerous and varied.

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'They are important not only for the environment but also for the economy and the general health and wellbeing of our population. The inclusion of trees as part of a neighbourhood plan can mean designating places to plant new trees, but also offers the opportunity to ensure the protection from development of existing trees and woods considered important to the community.'

The Woodland Trust's studies indicate that house-buyers are prepared to pay up to 7pc extra for a house with a view of woodland, and that shading from trees can reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 20pc.

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The organisation also says tourists are willing to pay, on average, 12pc more for goods and services in commercial districts with trees. It says woodland could prevent flooding and help farmers mitigate against the effects of drought on crops.

Neighbourhood plans form part of the government's localism legislation, which aims to give communities more opportunities to influence new development and manage its impact on their environment.

John Allaway, an arboricultural consultant who has campaigned to protect an area of Thorpe Woodlands from development in Norwich, agreed it was important to preserve trees through the planning process.

'Without trees places seem barren and bleak,' he said. 'The important thing to stress is that woodland, once destroyed, cannot be replaced in a development scheme.

'If you get rid of a mature tree it will take 50 years for a replacement to become anything like equivalent in value. When you have existing woodland like we do in Thorpe, which is threatened by development, it really cannot be replaced. You can plant thousands of new trees along roads, but you won't have a wood – you'll have a housing estate lined with ornamental trees.'

?For more information and advice, see www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/neighbourhood-planning.

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