PROJECTS to plant thousands of trees in Darlington and Durham have been awarded a share of a £10 million from the Forestry Commission.

The Darlington Forest project is among 50 schemes to receive cash from the Commission's Urban Tree Challenge Fund which aims to increase tree numbers in built-up areas through small-scale planting projects.

The funding will extend an existing green corridor in Darlington with the planting of 6,800 trees to improve the environment for wildlife as well as residents.

The area runs alongside the trackbed of the first passenger steam railway and will help showcase Darlington's heritage.

In Durham, 8,234 new trees will be planted at several locations to extend and link existing woodlands.

This will enhance biodiversity and habitat connectivity, and improve areas of reclaimed land.

Volunteers and councillors are already working on the projects and Cllr Brian Stephens, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for neighbourhoods and local partnerships, said: "The funding we have received from the Urban Tree Challenge Fund has been a wonderful opportunity to plant in our county’s urban environment, in places where tree cover is low.

"Trees are so important - they help to enhance existing green areas, bring back lost open space, support and increase biodiversity, as well as give significant benefits to our own health and wellbeing.”

This week's funding announcement means that nationally there will be up to 134,000 new trees planted across England’s towns and cities, which surpasses the Fund’s original target of 130,000.

Sir William Worsley, Chair of the Forestry Commission, said: “Community tree planting is a passion of mine which is why I am so excited to see projects like these benefitting from our Urban Tree Challenge Fund.

“Trees give life to our streets and our parks, help improve the health of communities, and provide homes for precious wildlife, and the thousands of new trees that will be planted will bring many benefits for generations to come.”

The Government is committed to plant 30,000 hectares of trees a year across the UK by 2025.

A £640m Nature for Climate fund will help to deliver the English portion of the pledge.