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Highways Agency helps woodlands flourish across England as part of National Tree Week this winter

Highways Agency helps woodlands flourish across England as part of National Tree Week this winter

HIGHWAYS AGENCY News Release (HA-53-08) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 26 November 2008

The Highways Agency, which is one of the biggest planters of trees in England, is marking National Tree Week (26 November - 7 December) with tree planting events across its network.

A number of projects in conjunction with schools around the country will see a great opportunity for schoolchildren to get involved, and to find out how we can all contribute towards a greener future. Tree-planting events and tree care tasks will help to ensure the health and sustainability of woodlands and greenery around the strategic road network of motorways and major A roads in England.

The Highways Agency took on the (then) Ministry of Transport's tree planting programme in 1994, continuing work which originally began in 1958. In this planting season we will be planting the 52 millionth tree.

As well as screening traffic from homes and places of work, trees also provide a noise barrier, stabilise soil on verges, control water run-off onto roads as well as adjoining land and increase biodiversity. The most widely planted tree is the common oak which can play host to over 280 insect species and is the backbone of the traditional lowland English woodland. The second most used tree is the ash supporting about 40 insect species and with its more open canopy allows a richer ground flora to flourish beneath its leaves.

Tony Sangwine, environmental advisor for the Highways Agency, said:

"National Tree Week comes at the end of a wonderful display of Autumn colour on our busy highway network. It reminds us of the vital role that trees have to play in the sustainability of our transport links. They provide a rich habitat for wildlife, filter polluted air, stabilise the soil, reduce the impact of stormwater run-off and help to integrate roads with their surrounding landscape. The Highways Agency now has 14,000 hectares of woodland on its estate and much of this planting screens people from views of traffic as well as providing seasonal interest through flower, fruit and leaf colour."

National Tree Week is organised by The Tree Council and marks the start of the winter tree planting season each year.

Pauline Buchanan Black, director-general of The Tree Council, said:

"It's clear that trees improve the quality of the environment, but there are social and economic reasons to plant trees as well as environmental ones. As one of the biggest planters of trees in England, we are so pleased that the Highways Agency is committed to supporting the work of The Tree Council by helping to raise awareness and to encourage people to appreciate how important trees are for the environment."

Across the country, tree planting events will be taking place in the following areas:

North East - Tree planting event with a local school around A69 Haydon Bridge Bypass (major project) scheme.

West Midlands - Schools around the area of M42 junction 1 have been invited to join in tree planting activities.

East - the A14 Haughley to Stowmarket improvement scheme has led to 5,793 coniferous and deciduous trees being planted.

Ends

Notes to Editors

1. The Highways Agency is an executive agency of the Department for Transport. We manage, maintain and improve England's motorways and major A roads on behalf of the Secretary of State.

2. The Highways Agency is committed to meeting its statutory duties defined in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and other legislation, and to have regard to the conservation and enhancement of biological diversity across the network. In 2002, the Agency introduced its biodiversity action plan and identified 15 targets for species and habitats against which delivery would be tracked as a percentage in its Annual Report. This year the Agency aims to deliver a further 6% of these 15 targets, making a cumulative total of 67%. A variety of species and habitats will benefit from this plan, such as otters and ancient woodlands.

3. Real -time traffic information for England's motorways and major A roads is now available:

* From our new Traffic Radio service, available on DAB digital radio and the internet at http://www.trafficradio.org.uk To tune into the DAB service, simply press the "scan" button on your radio. The radio will tune into all available channels and you can select the new service by scrolling through the channels until you reach "Traffic Radio".

* On the internet at http://www.highways.gov.uk/trafficinfo

* By phone from the Highways Agency 24-hour voice activated phone service on 08700 660 115. (Calls from BT landlines to 0870 numbers will cost no more than 8p per minute; mobile calls usually cost more).

4. Before using a mobile, find a safe place to park. Never stop on the hard shoulder of a motorway except in an emergency. Make sure it's safe and legal before you call.

5. For more general information about the Highways Agency and its work, visit the Highways Agency website http://www.highways.gov.uk, or telephone the Highways Agency Information Line on 08457 50 40 30 at any time. (Calls to 0845 numbers cost no more than 3p/min from BT residential landlines. Call charges from other landlines and mobile networks may vary.)

Safe driving in severe weather

* Drivers are reminded that rain and spray can reduce visibility and when the road is wet it can take up to twice as long to stop, so it makes sense to slow down when it's raining.

* Surface water may affect motorways and major A roads so we advise drivers to move slowly through any standing water and test their brakes once they're through before continuing to drive.

* High-sided vehicles are particularly affected by windy weather but strong gusts can also blow any vehicle, cyclist, motorcyclist, or horse rider off course. This can happen on open stretches of road exposed to strong crosswinds, or when passing bridges and high-sided vehicles.

* The Highways Agency is advising drivers to plan their journey, check the weather forecast, road conditions and their route for delays before they leave home and delay travelling if the weather becomes severe.

* Drivers are also advised to carry warm clothing and an emergency pack, which includes food and water, boots, de-icer, a torch, a spade if snow is forecast, and to make sure they have plenty of fuel for the journey. Listen to travel news on your car radio or tune into the Agency's Traffic Radio, which is available on DAB Digital Radio or online at http://www.trafficradio.org.uk.

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Issued by the Highways Agency Press Office. For enquiries from the media, journalists and researchers only, call Alex Barnett or Kelly Logan on 0207 081 7443 or email pressoffice@highways.gsi.gov.uk

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