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Hundreds of volunteers help plant trees in £1m Thanet green project

An ambitious plan to make Thanet greener has been met with overwhelming support from the community with hundreds of people supporting the initiative.

The Isle of Thanet Trees and Woods Initiative (ITTWI) secured £1 million worth of funding from the Forestry Commission and River Oaks Strategic Partners to plant hundreds of trees on six sites across the district.

Volunteers planting trees as part of the huge planting scheme
Volunteers planting trees as part of the huge planting scheme

Their first official planting day in Dane Valley Park, Margate, was met with huge public support as more than 300 people turned up to help plant cherry trees.

Peter Hasted, who is in charge of organising the planting of the trees, said Thanet is in desperate need of more greenery.

The contracts manager said: "The tree coverage in Thanet is the lowest in the country with less than 4%. Even London is 29%.

"It's so good for the biodiversity of the area - we really need to encourage the planting, especially with modern-day farming practices which are moving things towards monocultural agriculture."

In the past year many district councils across Kent have declared climate emergencies, with some exploring the possibility of planting more trees to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Luke Evans came up with the idea for the funding bid after starting a forest school
Luke Evans came up with the idea for the funding bid after starting a forest school

Thanet District Council is among several councils in Kent to declare a climate emergency in July 2019, with the motion put forward by Cllr Rob Yates.

Mr Hasted said: "Everyone's becoming much more environmentally aware at the moment, we've had such an enormous response from this scheme.

"The more trees we plant, the better off we'll be, because they catch carbon."

The importance of trees in the fight against climate pollution was echoed by a University of Kent professor, who said they would be essential in the fight to make our air cleaner.

Dr Charlie Gardner, a conservation biology lecturer at the School of Anthropology and Conservation for the University of Kent in Canterbury, told KentOnline local governments need to recognise the impact planting trees could have in reversing pollution in the long term.

Speaking on the KM Community podcast, the professor said: "It's widely recognised we need tree planting and ecosystem restoration on a massive scale globally to draw down the existing carbon out the atmosphere, and trees are the only technology we have to do this."

Listen to Dr Gardner discuss climate change on the KM Community Podcast

The ITTWI initiative was the brainchild of Luke Evans, a teacher at St Anthony's School, Margate, who started at forest school in Dane Park Valley.

As well as helping to combat air pollution, Mr Evans wanted the younger generation to have the opportunity to enjoy natural and leafy surroundings.

The 36-year-old said: "Forest schools are ultimately a middle class institution.

"I thought to myself it's not really fair only middle class families are getting these opportunities."

After negotiating with Thanet District Council, Mr Evans took over 14 acres of Dane Valley Woods, which was mostly made up of brambles.

Now the funding is secured through the Urban Tree Challenge Fund, the team will use the cash to plant hundreds of trees across six sites in Thanet, including Mr Evans' forest school site.

The remaining five sites are Dane Park, George Park, The Sunken Gardens in Westbrook, Dane Valley Green, and the old landfill site in Dane Valley Woods.

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