The Mersey Forest

Case Study Information
The Mersey Forest is a growing network of trees and woodlands covering 1,370 square km of Merseyside and North Cheshire, which is home to 1.7 million people.
North Cheshire and Merseyside
Landscape context: 

As a result of the project tree and woodland planting and management is transforming a largely post-industrial landscape into one that can be used as a springboard for wider social, environmental and economic regeneration.

Partners, organisations and stakeholders involved: 

The work of The Mersey Forest team and partners is directed by The Mersey Forest Plan, a long term strategic guide embedded within national planning policy.

The Mersey Forest Plan is delivered through partnership coordinated by The Mersey Forest team, the partnership includes:

  • Seven local authorities
  • Natural England
  • The Forestry Commission
  • The Environment Agency
  • Other public, private and community sector organisations


Aims of the project/initiative: 

The vision is to get ‘more from trees’ to help make Merseyside and North Cheshire one of the best places in the country to live. The focus of the Mersey Forest Partnership is on delivery of outcomes:  

  • Improved health
  • Education
  • Image
  • Job opportunities
  • Reduced risks of poor air quality
  • Reduced risks of flooding
  • Empowering communities.
Progress so far: 

Some key outputs and outcomes to date are:

  • Woodland cover has doubled from 4% in 1991 to 8%
  • Nine million trees planted, three times the England average
  • 8,000+ street trees planted (Green Streets programme)
  • 65% of woodlands have brought into management, three time that since 1991.
  • 23% of the population live within 500 metres of an accessible woodland of at least 2 hectares (a Woodland Access Standard aspiration)
  • 77% live within 4 km of an accessible woodland of at least 20 hectares, this is higher than the England average
  • Two thirds of people visit their local woods.
  • 65% of people have noticed an improvement in their local landscape.
  • Over 200km of good quality walking or cycling routes have been created or reopened.
  • For every £1 invested, there was £2.60 of Gross Value Added and £10.20 of total economic benefits.
  • The woodlands will store 1.3 million tonnes of carbon over an 80-year period
  • Engagement of a wide range of range of public and private sector organisations and environmental initiatives
  • Making the economic case for investment in green infrastructure

The Mersey Forest has championed the green infrastructure agenda. This has included: 

  • advocacy work to get green infrastructure embedded in policy
  • convening think tanks and forums to develop the thinking and share ideas
  • developing an innovative mapping methodology
  • creating green infrastructure plans and strategies
  • accessing funding from sources not traditionally seen as closely related to the natural environment (e.g. health and transport sectors)
Challenges and lessons learned: 
  1. This is a long-term initiative with an approved Plan, providing a continuous framework to achieve the vision. The achievements to date are due to a strong partnership, from national to community levels. Working at different levels enables a short chain between policy and delivery, and vice versa.

  2. Monitoring and evaluation is vital to demonstrate the outcomes from investments and promote achievements.

  3. The benefits of trees and woodlands are relevant to a wide range of agenda. This means that there is a need to work with many partners, and to access a wide range of funding sources. However, at present the funders or beneficiaries are usually interested in buying particular benefits of the trees and woodlands, but not necessarily all of the benefits. There is an ongoing challenge to pull together the different funding sources in order to be able to fund projects that truly deliver multiple benefits.

  4. Green infrastructure planning has provided a more strategic approach to planning for green space and the natural environment, bringing together different environmental organisations under a common framework and speaking in an appropriate language to non-environmental sectors.
Further information
Contact name 

Paul Nolan

Role in project: 
Location map: