Future Woodlands Scotland (FWS) has launched its first pilot project to be funded by the charity’s Urban Forestry Programme (UFP), supported by bp. Dedicated to helping create and conserve woodlands across Scotland, FWS has selected a nut and fruit tree project in Raploch and Bannockburn to kickstart its efforts to improve urban spaces.

Raploch, which gained fame through the BBC documentary series in the early 2000s, Raploch Stories, and Bannockburn, are areas highlighted for social and environmental improvements.

Despite ongoing regeneration efforts, the benefits of tree planting have been overlooked in these areas and the funding provided by the UFP seeks to address this.

The ‘Free nut and fruit tree’ project will be fully funded by the UFP and aims to plant 200 trees consisting of apple, pear, and walnut varieties in the Raploch and Bannockburn areas of Stirling.

FWS ceo Shireen Chambers, said: “This project is exactly what we want to support. Trees improve quality of life and are vital for a healthy environment. Our Urban Forestry Programme aims to plant more trees across Scotland and inspire similar projects. We look forward to applications opening in the Autumn and encourage anyone working in urban forestry in Scotland to get in touch.”

Led by the local environmental organisation, TreeLink Stirling, the ‘nut and fruit tree’ project follows the success of their ‘Trees for Babies’ programme, where families of newborns in the Stirling Council area were gifted a tree. Feedback from residents indicated a desire for productive trees, which inspired the nut and fruit tree project. The nut and fruit tree project will enable local residents to apply for one of the 200 trees to be planted in their garden.

Zara Isshac, a Raploch resident, said: “Taking part in the ‘Trees for Babies’ programme last year showed me how planting trees can positively impact our community and families living here. I’m excited to be one of the first to plant an apple tree in my garden and have access to fresh fruit for years to come.”

FWS’ UFP was developed to address the need for more trees and green spaces in Scotland’s urban areas, and to help improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and the urban environment.

The programme will prioritise areas in Scotland with the fewest trees, guided by the Tree Equity tool, which was created to address imbalances in urban tree distribution by American Forests, the US non-profit organisation. The mapping tool was brought to the UK by the Woodland Trust and Centre for Sustainable Healthcare.

A key metric used by FWS will be tree canopy cover, which refers to how much space a tree takes up when viewed from above. In Scotland’s towns and cities, the average tree canopy cover is 16%, but many areas fall below this. Some neighbourhoods in Raploch are as low as 2%.

Max Hislop, TreeLink Stirling’s Vice Chair said: “The ‘Free nut and fruit tree’ project is a fantastic opportunity for the Raploch and Bannockburn communities to benefit from increased tree cover and the numerous health and environmental advantages that come with it. As a recipient of the Urban Forestry Programme Fund, we’re excited about the gains that can be made in these areas of Stirling.”

The nut and fruit tree project is the first of two pilot projects, being funded by the Urban Forestry Programme. The second project, a tree warden scheme, is intended to maintain 10,000 urban trees already planted across the Glasgow City Region. These trees were planted as part of the Clyde Climate Forest initiative’s ambition to plant 1.5 million urban trees over next 10 years.

Several funding opportunities will be available through the UFP, with grants ranging from £2,000 to £100,000. The charity is also keen to explore opportunities with organisations to address challenges and obstacles to increasing tree canopy cover in Scotland’s towns and cities.

The UFP is supported by bp, as part of its planned Scottish offshore windfarm project, Morven, jointly developed with EnBW. As the UFP’s lead funder, bp has committed up to £10 million, as part of the ScotWind bid.

Giles Mackey, bp’s Head of Health, Safety & Sustainability, UK offshore wind said: “This is a very exciting next step for the Urban Forestry Programme and the programme expands on bp’s long-standing support for Future Woodlands Scotland. We’re looking forward to the launch of applications later this year to allow Future Woodlands Scotland to support other projects in Scotland seeking to enhance urban spaces.”

The Woodland Trust’s Urban Project Officer, Caroline Campbell, welcomed Future Woodlands Scotland’s use of the tool.  She said: “Prioritising funding based on “Tree Equity” with schemes like Future Woodland Scotland’s Urban Forestry Programme helps address disparities in urban tree cover, ensuring that trees are planted where people need them most.”

Applications for the UFP open in September 2024. For more information and to sign up for updates, visit the Future Woodlands Scotland website: www.futurewoodlands.org.uk