York’s flagship community woodland has been recognised with an award.

Nearly 200 acres of land near the village of Knapton, to the west of York, are being transformed by the project delivered by City of York Council and Forestry England.

York Community Woodland won the silver Community Woodland Award for Excellence in Forestry 2023 from the Royal Forestry Society (RFS).

The RFS award celebrates woodland projects that benefit communities.

City of York Council says the woodland supports York’s efforts to tackle the long-term impacts of climate change, increase biodiversity, and promote active travel, health and wellbeing.

York Press: Artist's impression showing how York's fledgling community woodland may one day lookArtist's impression showing how York's fledgling community woodland may one day look (Image: Planning documents/supplied)

The council adds that it will contribute to York’s new goal of increasing the city’s tree canopy cover from 10.8 per cent to 13 per cent by 2050 – the equivalent of 21 hectares of new canopy cover each year.

The woodland has been developed with the help of 400 local volunteers and 30 stakeholder groups with specialist skills and interests.

Cllr Jenny Kent, the council’s joint executive member for environment and climate emergency, said: “It’s great to see the skill and effort of hundreds of local volunteers rewarded – this project represents what York’s communities can achieve when we work together towards a shared goal.”

Nick Short, woodland creation manager for Forestry England Yorkshire said: “The woodland is still being created, so to be recognised is testament to the huge team effort, as well as the technical skill and breadth of experience of staff across the organisation, allowing us to plan and deliver creative solutions to the many challenges of such a project.

“We have a way to go with establishing the site yet, but we’re proud of the progress so far and we look forward to welcoming visitors in 2024.”

The award comes amid a row over plans for a new business park next to the community woodland.

As reported in The Press, council planners approved the proposals to convert three farm buildings on the new woodland’s northern edge near Poppleton on August 16.

The decision sparked a furious protest from Liberal Democrat city councillor Christian Vassie, who said an officer’s report recommending approval of the plans made not a single mention of the flagship community woodland project.

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Nor was the woodland referred to in drawings or photographs that accompanied the report, he said.

The decision had to be automatically referred to Mr Gove as Secretary of State for levelling up, housing and communities, because the site of the proposed business park is officially on land designated as green belt.

Cllr Vassie also wrote to Mr Gove urging him to intervene but an official from the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities wrote back saying Mr Gove would not get involved.

After the decision, Cllr Vassie pledged to continue to do all he could to fight the plans and challenge the process by which council planners made the decision.