Somerset’s Tree strategy has been formally launched to community groups with the introduction of two new staff who will drive the ambitious plan forward.

James Chapman and Craig Daters were introduced to nearly 100 representatives from community groups and other interested parties at a launch event last week.

Adopted by Somerset Council earlier this year, the strategy sets out a plan for planting 240 hectares of new trees and woodlands each year across the county until 2033.

Currently tree cover is estimated to be 13% across the UK, whilst the figure for Somerset by area is below the national average at 8%.

Funded through a successful bid to Defra, the work of James, Somerset Tree Strategist, and Craig, Community Empowerment Officer will be key to the ten-year plan to enhance and protect Somerset trees and woodland.

James will be involved in working with local landowners to identify land to increase the county’s tree canopy, and told the launch event:

Many communities have already been involved in schemes to protect our landscape, but this is an exciting time when plans can go forward with the support of the council.

Although lots of residents don’t have space in their gardens to grow trees, communities can still plant local seeds and nurture seedlings that can be grown in more suitable places, which can be achieved by creating community tree seed nurseries across the county.

One of James’ key ambitions is to map the many areas of small, fragmented, and neglected pockets of woodland across Somerset and bring them under a management structure. This structure could provide a basis for woodland products to be brought to the market.

Craig is developing an information platform to share advice on tree growing, planting and woodland creation at a community level.

He said:

The initial focus for my current role is to get building blocks in place to enable communities and landowners in Somerset to become more self-sufficient.

This means developing opportunities for more home-grown trees and supporting communities to plant trees whilst advising landowners on woodland creation.

Councillor Dixie Darch, Lead Member for Environment and Climate Change, said:

The new Tree Strategy has been launched in recognition of how important trees are to the landscape, the environment and how that impacts on the lives of our residents.

We are delighted to welcome Craig and James who will help implement a diverse range of management practices that improve our woodland quality and help protect the range of species being planted in rural and urban areas.

This is Somerset’s strategy to help trees be a thriving part of our landscape, our ecology, and our society.

It belongs to us all.

Attendees at the launch event at Monk’s Yard, near Ilminster, included community groups and partners, who came together to discuss planning for increasing Somerset’s woodland coverage.

As one of the Council’s priorities to create a greener, more sustainable Somerset the strategy recognises the Council’s role in helping tackle the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. It has been developed in partnership with the Environment Agency, Somerset Local Nature Partnership, Exmoor National Park, Quantock Hills AONB Partnership, The Forestry Commission and The Woodland Trust.

Built around five themes, the strategy seeks to strengthen the county’s bond with its trees, creating a ‘wood culture’ where the people of Somerset can access and be a part of caring about Somerset’s woodland.

The five core objectives of the new strategy are:

  • Making our trees resilient and adaptable to climate change
  • Expanding the number of trees in both urban and rural areas
  • Creating a sustainable and flexible governance structure to ensure the implementation of the strategy over the next ten years
  • Developing a range of services and products that enable Somerset’s treescapes to be a part of local supply chains with the aim of creating natural capital opportunities
  • Creating a Wood Culture for everyone to learn about the importance of trees

If you have areas of land suitable for tree planting, or would like to sign up to support your local community group you can email us at

The full strategy is available on the Somerset Council website Somerset’s Climate Emergency Strategy.

Tree Officer and Tree Strategist

About this article

September 20, 2023

Isabella Cole

Climate Emergency


Press Release