Designated Thames Chase Forest land to be extended in Havering urban areas

Havering Council has backed a scheme that would see a major forestry project extended into urban areas.

The borough includes part of the Thames Chase Community Forest, which comprises around 40 square miles of green belt land.

It covers land in Havering off the M25 motorway, as well as in Barking & Dagenham, Brentwood, and Thurrock.

Since being formally designated one of England’s 12 ‘community forests’ back in 1990, it has become popular with hikers for woodland and wildlife.

The project’s aim is to regenerate woodland in east London and south-west Essex from 8 per cent coverage to 30 per cent in 2030, mainly by planting some 5.5million trees.

In 2023, the Thames Chase Trust board (TCT) took over from the Land of the Fanns Partnership Scheme, which comprised a collection of volunteer-led projects aimed at bolstering the environment and improving access to local history.

The board has since laid out plans to expand the forest by 30 square miles, bringing it closer in line with similar projects.

As part of that expansion, it would extend the designated area into Romford, Hornchurch and Rainham. Paul Walker, Havering Council’s interim director of housing and property, approved the scheme on Wednesday (26th June).

Other urban areas, such South Ockendon and Aveley, have been included in the community forest since its inception in 1990.

Under the Trees for Climate plan – one of the largest woodland creation schemes in the country – TCT will begin to plant trees in parks, housing estates and on golf courses, the council says.

It will be funded by the National Lottery, at no cost to Havering Council.

The decision to back the TCT’s scheme is classed as an “executive decision” and will not be subject to call-in by councillors, nor was it debated by a committee.

The majority of council decisions are made in such a way. Over the past week, Havering has also approved a fresh meat procurement plan and greenlit the purchases of several homes, in a bid to increase both housing stock and rental income.

Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter