Rochdale borough has least tree cover in whole of Greater Manchester

Date published: 20 March 2023

The Rochdale borough has the least tree cover in the whole of Greater Manchester, according to new analysis.

The new analysis, carried out on behalf of Friends of the Earth by mapping experts Terra Sulis, compares tree levels between neighbourhoods and local authority areas.

Tree canopy cover nationally stands at a lowly 12.8%; within this, 10% can be attributed to woodland, which is significantly lower than the EU average of 38%.

In the borough of Rochdale, tree canopy cover is just 7.7%. Neighbouring borough Oldham has the next lowest at 9.3%, whilst Stockport has the highest with 17%.

Friends of the Earth says Rochdale is in the bottom third of predominantly urban local authorities and has ‘woodland opportunity’ of 3,239 hectares. Currently, just 5.2% of the borough is woodland. Friends of the Earth claims 608 hectares could create new woodland through rewilding.


Existing trees mapped using Environment Agency data and land suitable for new woodland identified by Friends of the Earth: yellow areas are 'woodland opportunity' and green are existing tree cover
Existing trees mapped using Environment Agency data and land suitable for new woodland identified by Friends of the Earth: yellow areas are 'woodland opportunity' and green are existing tree cover


A spokesperson for Rochdale Borough Council said: "The reason for the disparity between different boroughs in Greater Manchester is that every area has distinct geography.

"In the borough of Rochdale there are expansive tracts of open moorland containing over 80%* of the county’s blanket bog where trees do not thrive. The moorland provides flower-rich grassland and wetland habitats to support a rich diversity of wildlife.

"In other areas of the borough, our tree-planting schemes have expanded yearly from 1,490 in 2020 to 2,864 in 2021. In 2022 we planted 4,704 trees, which is in addition to our policy that we plant two replacement trees for every tree that needs to be felled because they are dead, dying, or dangerous.

"Our work continues to deliver a Pennine Edge Forest as part of ongoing commitments to achieve net-zero carbon targets, which includes plans to increase the current tree cover to 13% by 2030 and 20.6% by 2038.

"We work closely with several partners, local businesses, and organisations which include the City of Trees, The Woodland Trust, The Forestry Commission, plus private landowners to help us deliver on these commitments."

The environmental charity is now calling on politicians to prioritise tree planting to help the fight against climate change.

Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “The UK government should be aiming to double tree cover in England by 2050 to ensure that people, no matter where they live or what their income, can experience the mental and physical health benefits that trees bring.

“Our new mapping identifies the areas that are missing out most on these life-enhancing protections, and where new tree planting should be prioritised.

“Current targets for tree planting are woefully inadequate and overlook the devastating impact that timber and wood imports from countries such as Brazil, China and Russia wreak on nature globally.

“We need many more trees for farming, urban cooling and absorbing harmful carbon emissions. There’s more than enough viable land to increase cover two-fold without compromising quality agricultural land or protected habitats.

“The government must get behind a far more ambitious plan to boost tree numbers and adopt this as an official target.”

Do you have a story for us?

Let us know by emailing
All contact will be treated in confidence.

To contact the Rochdale Online news desk, email or visit our news submission page.

To get the latest news on your desktop or mobile, follow Rochdale Online on Twitter and Facebook.

While you are here...

...we have a small favour to ask; would you support Rochdale Online and join other residents making a contribution, from just £3 per month?

Rochdale Online offers completely independent local journalism with free access. If you enjoy the independent news and other free services we offer (event listings and free community websites for example), please consider supporting us financially and help Rochdale Online to continue to provide local engaging content for years to come. Thank you.

Support Rochdale Online