The first of 15,000 trees have been planted in Walsall as part of Severn Trent’s initiative to create 2022-acres of Commonwealth Forest across the Midlands. The 30 acres of new habitat is located at Aldridge Airport will be open to the public to explore.
As Birmingham 2022’s Official Nature & Carbon Neutral Supporter, Severn Trent is delivering a series of initiatives to leave a social and environmental legacy following Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. This work includes the creation of 2,022 acres of Commonwealth Forests, as well as 72 tennis-court-sized Tiny Forests which are being created across the West Midlands.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, attended the first day of planting at Aldridge Airport and backed the initiative that will not only bring new green space to the area for communities to enjoy, but also increase regional resilience against the threats of climate change and nature loss.
The Commonwealth Forest at Aldridge Airport will feature native UK grown broadleaf species and will be an extension of the Hayhead Wood, creating a nature corridor between Walsall Arboretum to the West and Birch Wood to the South. The site at Aldridge Airport will also compliment similar woodland projects nearby by improving age and species diversity in the area.
Liv Garfield, CEO of Severn Trent said: “We couldn’t be more excited to take this next step in our partnership with Birmingham 2022 to deliver a carbon neutral legacy for generations to come. It’s fantastic to know that the 30-acres of Commonwealth Forest in Walsall will not only create a new habitat for both communities and nature to enjoy, but will also play a bigger role in connecting two existing forest sites.
“Biodiversity loss presents one of the biggest challenges our society will face this century and what’s really exciting about both the Commonwealth Forests and the Tiny Forests is that these new green spaces will live on long past the games for future generations to enjoy as a space where biodiversity and nature can thrive and flourish.
“We’re working closely with our partners, including the Forestry Commission to make sure that all the sites are right for the trees that we will be planting.”
Central to Birmingham 2022’s aim to make these the most sustainable Games yet, is the ambition to create a carbon neutral legacy. Focusing on a reduction first approach, the final carbon footprint will be balanced out by carbon offsets, including the Commonwealth Forest across the Midlands.
Over time, as the trees mature, they will remove and store carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and in doing so will offset a large part of Birmingham 2022’s projected carbon footprint. This process will be validated and verified by the UK Woodland Carbon Code – the best practice standard for UK woodland creation projects in the UK.
Councillor Oliver Butler, Portfolio Holder for Clean and Green at Walsall Council said: “I’m really pleased to be working in partnership with Severn Trent on this initiative. I’d like to say a very sincere thank you to all the volunteers who have helped with the planting today — they’ve made a positive difference for the future.”
Jess Fidler, Head of Sustainability at Birmingham 2022 said: “While we are working hard to reduce the Games’ carbon footprint, we know there will be emissions we cannot avoid. Our strong partnership with Severn Trent to implement a credible carbon offsetting project will also provide a sustainable legacy for generations to come. It is really exciting to see the first trees being planted as part of our pledge to create a carbon neutral legacy for the Birmingham 2022 Games.
“Not only will these green spaces support our ambition to deliver the most sustainable Commonwealth Games yet, they will help reconnect people with nature, provide habitats that support urban wildlife and support outdoor learning for local communities.”
Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “It’s fantastic to see Severn Trent teaming up with Birmingham 2022 to help make this summer’s Commonwealth Games the most sustainable Games yet. It is ambitious plans like this that will bring our #WM2041 climate plans to life and help us reach our net-zero target.
“The Commonwealth and Tiny Forests are great initiatives as part of a sustainable Commonwealth Games. Not only will they have a positive impact on the environment, but also current and future generations who will be able to explore these sites – including the one we are planting trees at today in Walsall.
“It is mission critical that the Games are not just 11 days of sporting spectacle but leave behind a lasting legacy for generations to come. These forests all across the West Midlands will help do exactly that.”
In addition, Severn Trent is working with the Forestry Commission to assess 90 acres of land across the Midlands, including locations in Birmingham, Walsall and Staffordshire for land suitability to ensure that the right trees are planted in the right place.
Keith Jones, North West and West Midlands Area Manager for the Forestry Commission added: “Our woodland officers are working with Severn Trent providing advice and guidance on the proposed woodland areas that make up the Commonwealth Forest. Careful consideration is key when planning woodland to ensure it’s in keeping with the local surroundings and environment.
“It’s fantastic to see the woodland at Aldridge Airport now being planted. It demonstrates the many benefits that woodland can provide. Whilst supporting the carbon neutral plans for the Games, it will provide a new green space in the local area for the community to enjoy. In addition to this, it will also contribute towards the Government’s ambition to increase woodland in England to help combat climate change.”