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An image of new planted woodland with trees and saplings in tree guards.

The English Tree Planting Programme will contribute to the Government’s commitment to increase tree planting to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025. Alongside environmental and economic benefits, there will be social benefits associated with this. Therefore, this planting programme provides a valuable opportunity to assess public attitudes to new planting and the social benefits associated with it, including how this may vary across diverse populations. It is also an opportunity to help us better understand why some people can’t or don’t benefit from woodland creation and expansion and what we can do about it.

This research will pilot a longitudinal social research approach. This is research which assesses how attitudes, benefits and barriers change over time in relation to new tree planting. We will look at this from an individual and a community perspective.

Research objectives

RO1. Identify and develop connections with forest/woodland sites and communities to study over time;

RO2. Explore attitudes, motivations, actions, barriers and benefits linked to new woodland creation and expansion (new planting) for diverse communities.

RO3. Develop and test a proof-of-concept* for longitudinal research to study how attitudes, motivations, actions, barriers and benefits for communities local to new planting change over time.

*proof-of-concept refers to establishing through testing whether such longitudinal research is feasible, what it would contribute, and how it could be achieved.

Research questions: 

  • RQ1 What do local community members who have visited the site think about the intervention (new planting and expansion of woodland) and how it has come about?
  • RQ2 What do local community members who have not visited the site (but are aware of the intervention) think about it and how it has come about?
  • RQ3 What impact has the intervention had on local community members who visit/engage with the site?
  • RQ4 What impact, if any, has the intervention had on local community members who have not visited (but are aware of the intervention)?
  • RQ5 How do we best capture the above change in attitudes, motivations, actions, barriers and benefits linked to woodland creation and expansion for diverse communities over time?
  • RQ6 What lessons can we take from the above to inform such interventions to help them improve provision of benefits and to maximise access/engagement with such sites (where this is an aim) and minimise negative impacts (on site and visitor)?

Latest updates

We have recently completed the first wave of interviews and surveys with participants. We are currently coding and analysing the data, while preparing for the second wave of data collection.

This project will last approximately 2 years and is expected to finish in March 2025.

Our Involvement

Forest research are leading this novel project, with assistance from the partners listed below.

Funding and partners

This project is funded by Defra as part of the Nature Climate Fund. We are also working with the Forest of Marston Vale and The National Forest as case study sites. Other partners on the advisory group include: the Forestry Commission, Forestry England, The Woodland Trust, Natural England, University of Exeter, Scottish Forestry, and the Welsh Government.


  • Karlsdottir, B., 2023. Qualitative Longitudinal Methods for Forest Social Science: A Review (in publication).
  • O’Brien, L., FitzGerald, O., Bursnell, M., Ambrose-Oji, B., and Edwards, D., 2021. England Tree Planting Programme: Experimental Plots. A scoping report for social research (internal document).

Related research

Funding & partners
  • Defra
  • The Forest of Marston Vale
  • The National Forest
Head shot of FR staff Member Beth Brockett
Beth Brockett

Senior Social Scientist