New 250-acre woodland to be developed in the Belfast Hills
Belfast is to get a new 250-acre woodland which is to be developed close to Cavehill Country Park in the north of the city.
Funding from the land is from Biffa Award, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund, with a top-up from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
Two thirds of the land is suitable for native woodland, the rest is species-rich grassland which supports a wide range of important plants.
The Woodland Trust plans to open the site for free to the public once planting and other works have taken place.
Ian McCurley, director of Woodland Trust Northern Ireland, said: “We want to thank Biffa Award who have donated £550,000 and NIEA who have funded £50,000 allowing the Woodland Trust to purchase the land in Belfast Hills.
“This is an incredible investment, and we are excited about the opportunity to create a new native woodland within a short drive of the population of greater Belfast, Newtownabbey and South Antrim.”
Mr McCurley added: “To be able to create woodlands on this scale means more for nature, more for climate change and more for people.
“We need to rapidly increase tree cover to help reach net zero carbon emissions and tackle the declines in wildlife. We want to conserve the land in the Belfast Hills and restore it to a beautiful habitat for people and nature.”
Northern Ireland has the lowest level of tree cover in Europe at 8 per cent although there is a target to get that to 12 per cent by 2050.
Welcoming the announcement Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots said: “ My Department is delighted to provide significant financial support to enable the Woodland Trust to deliver this exciting project in the Belfast Hills.
“It will protect and enhance important wildlife habitats, create valuable new woodland through an extensive programme of native tree planting as part of the Forests for Our Future initiative and facilitate public access to an impressive landscape that is literally on the doorstep of Belfast and surrounding towns.”
The new site borders Cave Hill Country Park, which attracts over 270,000 visitors every year and will link existing pathways through Divis and the Belfast Hills.
“It will also be a vital piece of the jigsaw linking current Woodland Trust sites at Carnmoney Hill, Monkstown Wood and Throne Wood, providing free outdoor spaces for the local community in North Belfast, Newtownabbey, South Antrim and the greater Belfast area.
The news comes after the Woodland Trust committed to planting 50 million more trees in the UK by 2025 to help tackle climate change.
The Environment Department has plans to plant 18 million trees across Northern Ireland by 2030.
It is understood almost 700,000 of them have already been planted.