SOMERSET'S Tree Strategy has been formally launched with the introduction of two new staff members to drive the plan forward.

The strategy, which was adopted by the council this year, sets out a plan for planting 240 hectares of new trees and woodlands every year across the county until 2033.

New staff members James Chapman, a Somerset tree strategist, and Craig Daters,  community empowerment officer, will drive the plan forward. They met with nearly 100 representatives and other groups at a launch event in Monk's Yard last week to signify their commitment.

Across the UK, tree cover is estimated to be at 13 per cent. However, in Somerset, it is at just 8 per cent.

James will work with landowners to identify areas to increase the county's tree canopy. James said: “Many communities have already been involved in schemes to protect our landscape, but this is an exciting time when plans can go forward with the support of the council.

“Although lots of residents don’t have space in their gardens to grow trees, communities can still plant local seeds and nurture seedlings that can be grown in more suitable places, which can be achieved by creating community tree seed nurseries across the county.” 

James also hopes to map small areas of woodland and bring them under a management structure, which could impact how woodland products are brought to the market.

Meanwhile, Craig is working on creating an information platform which will give advice on tree growing, planting and how the community can get involved in woodland creation.

Craig said: “The initial focus for my current role is to get building blocks in place to enable communities and landowners in Somerset to become more self-sufficient.

“This means developing opportunities for more home-grown trees and supporting communities to plant trees whilst advising landowners on woodland creation.”

Councillor Dixie Darch, lead member for Environment and Climate Change, added: "We are delighted to welcome Craig and James who will help implement a diverse range of management practices that improve our woodland quality and help protect the range of species being planted in rural and urban areas. 

"This is Somerset’s strategy to help trees be a thriving part of our landscape, our ecology, and our society.

"It belongs to us all.”