SWATHES of public land could be given over to forest if a Northumberland MP gets his way.

This month saw the county officially kick off plans to plant one million trees by 2024 as part of efforts to slash carbon emissions and improve the environment.

But Guy Opperman, who represents Hexham in the House of Commons, wants to see the government allocate even more space across the country for similar projects.

“Northumberland is leading the way, but there’s a lot more we need to do,” he said.

“Longer term we need to see if it’s possible that all public land has a one per cent [forestry cover], the principle that public land should be designated for one per cent coverage of forestry could be the way, going forward.

“MoD land is the most obvious starting point, but also new housing developments and public sector land should also be looking to have some.

“It may not always be possible, such as where there simply isn’t the space, but there should be a presumption that should need to be rebuffed and that’s the argument I’m putting forward to Defra.”

Opperman, who has represented Hexham since 2010, was speaking at the launch of the Great Northumberland Forest (GNF) project.

The largest single forest, also the largest man made forest in England, is Kielder Forest, which covers about 60,000 hectares in Northumberland and across the county border into Cumbria.

The GNF plans are expected to see a further three new public forests created, covering up to an additional 500 hectares.

Earlier this year, Northumberland farmers were told they would have to “adapt” to changing agriculture priorities, shifting focus to initiatives such as rewilding.

Opperman added he supported “diversity” in farming and called for rule changes to make it easier for farmers to plant woodland.

The view was echoed by Berwick MP Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who said: “This isn’t going to be a threat to our farming activity at all, quite the opposite.

“We know Northumberland is a key part of our food security as a nation.

“There’s many areas of marginal land which are not part of food production and where tree production can be increased.

“They in turn can help manage water courses and reduce the risk of flooding by thinking holistically about how trees can bring benefits across all areas.”