Thousands of trees will be planted across County Durham’s towns and villages to create greener and healthier urban areas.

As part of Forestry Commission’s Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF), Durham County Council has secured almost £500,000 to plant thousands of trees in spaces where tree canopy is low.

Over the next two years large trees will be planted in areas such as Chester-le-Street, Ouston, Stanley and Meadowfield, as well as other areas, and smaller trees will be planted to create copses to link existing woodland.

The planting will cover different types of open space including parks, playing fields, and road corridors, and will help to increase carbon capture.

Cllr Brian Stephens, Cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: “We’re delighted to have secured this funding. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be able to plant in the urban environment, where tree cover is low. Trees are so important; they help to enhance existing green areas and bring back lost open space.

“After declaring our climate emergency last year, people identified tree planting as a very high priority for offsetting carbon emissions, and this is a welcome start towards a programme of planting schemes across the county.”

Durham County Council is one of 13 areas across the UK to be awarded funding from UTCF in a bid to tackle climate change while boosting health and wellbeing by connecting people to nature.

The areas where trees will be planted include Chester-le-Street, Ouston, Perkinsville, Dipton, Thornley, Shotton Colliery, Easington, Horden, Murton, Bowburn, Meadowfield, Brandon and Stanley.

All planting will be in accessible green spaces, located close to residents’ homes, easy to walk to, physically accessible, safe to use and well-maintained.

The council will carry out the work in partnership Karbon Homes and Believe Housing.

Head of housing operations at believe housing, Simon Bartlett, said: “We’re committed to improving the environment of the communities we work in and are really pleased to be working with Durham County Council to make this project possible.

“The thousands of trees being planted will help make towns and villages much more pleasant places to live; not just for us, but for wildlife too.”’

The £10 million UTCF scheme will see 130,000 trees planted across England’s towns and cities by 2021.

These projects will help Durham and areas across the UK improve health and wellbeing, as well as playing a crucial role in the fight against climate change, supporting the UK’s journey to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.