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Morgan Sindall: Blenheim Estate Land Partnership

Growing natural capital: Morgan Sindall and Blenheim Estate Land to create new woodlands

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  • What we know
  • What we’re doing
  • What it’s worth

What we know

Morgan Sindall Group plc, the leading UK construction and regeneration group, is working not only to achieve net zero but, also, to enhance and create natural capital – the world’s stocks of natural assets, which include geology, soil, air, water, and all living things.

To this end, it has signed an agreement with the Blenheim Estate in Oxfordshire for a project to be delivered with Grown in Britain, an independent not-for-profit that it helped set up in 2011 to revitalise and invest in woodlands and certify British wood products. They are driving this 25-year initiative to transform poor qualify, unproductive farmland into a thriving, diverse ecosystem which creates real, quantifiable, and measurable benefits to the environment and people.

  • Natural capital in cleaner air, clearer water, richer soil, more diverse plant, and animal species
  • Social Value: Offering physical and mental wellbeing and health benefits – a 15km footpath trail, a forest school, and an amphitheatre, open to all

Grown in Britain’s aim is to develop a new ‘wood culture’ by engaging and collaborating with partners from Government, retail, NGOs, and the private sector to drive the change in attitudes needed to secure the future success of the UK’s woods and forests. Find out more about them here.Social Value: Offering physical and mental wellbeing and health benefits – a 15km footpath trail, a forest school, and an amphitheatre, open to all

Working in partnership, Morgan Sindall and the Blenheim Estate aim to create nine new woodlands, planting more than a quarter of a million trees to transform the land as part of an ambitious series of sustainability initiatives.

The project differs from many tree-planting schemes that offset carbon as, rather than invest in a project on the other side of the world, its backers are taking practical and positive action – and with a long-term commitment – in their own backyard.

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What we’re doing

Forests offer numerous benefits, including absorbing and storing carbon from the atmosphere, regulating temperature, and cleaning the air. Yet the UK is one of the least wooded areas of Europe, with less than 12% woodland cover compared to around 44% for Europe. [source]

The Morgan Sindall and Blenheim Estate Land Partnership is built on an understanding of the need for considered, long-term thinking around woodlands and an appreciation of the crucial role they play in creating spaces that contribute to creating natural capital and enhancing human wellbeing.

Funded by Morgan Sindall, it represents the first scheme planted under the Forest Canopy Foundation (FCF) – a not-for-profit collaboration of private sector forestry companies collaborating under the Foundation’s umbrella to demonstrate technical rigour and quality in woodland creation.

Morgan Sindall will help fund, design, and create the woodlands, in collaboration with Cotswolds-based forestry company, Nicholsons. Grown in Britain is providing independent auditing of both expert providers and woodland schemes, with all natural capital assets – such as cleaner water and air and richer soil – being measured.

The woods will incorporate 28 carefully selected varieties of trees – including Hornbeam, Lime, Sycamore, Wild Cherry, Oak, Norway Maple, Alder and Beech in the mixed woodlands with an understorey of woody shrub species including Hazel, Hawthorn, Viburnums, Euonymus and Dogwoods to create a diverse and self-sustaining eco-system. Experimental species will also be included to assess climate resilience and a small percentage of conifer planted to provide winter habitats for wildlife.

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What it’s worth

Far from a quick win, this will be a legacy project which – while it will have immediate impact in terms of biodiversity, soil erosion prevention and cleaner water – will sequester a total of 22,000 tonnes of carbon across a quarter of a century and harness the best expertise from experts in the fields of forestry, woodland creation, biodiversity, and environmental analysis.

This project represents the first scheme planted under the Forest Canopy Foundation (FCF) – a not-for-profit collaboration of private sector forestry companies who have joined forces under the Foundation’s umbrella to demonstrate technical rigour and quality in woodland creation.

It will also offer the opportunity for local people of all ages to get involved and improve the landscape everyone shares.The project is designed to improve the biodiversity of the area significantly, improving the quality of soil, air, water, and biodiversity. A ‘green corridor’ will be created along with the River Dorn, for example, which will prevent soil erosion into the world-famous Blenheim Great Lake.

Partnering with Grown in Britain for independent auditing of both expert providers and woodland schemes, the collaboration measures all-natural capital assets – such as cleaner water and air and richer soil – seeking to share and deepen understanding of the worth of woodland creation.

It is too early to gauge outcomes as the project was launched in May 2021, with planting beginning in November 2021. But with the experience and knowledge gained, Morgan Sindall will integrate lessons learned into many of its future designs for housing, development, and urban regeneration projects.

Key statistics:

270,000 trees * 22,000 tonnes of carbon sequestered * 138 hectares to be planted

25-year project * 15 woodlands * 15km public footpath * One Forest School

Testimonial

This is about creating a legacy with an environmental net gain and the creation of substantial natural capital, across the board. Our woodlands will provide measurable, demonstrable gains in terms of soil, air and water quality, not to mention the wellbeing benefits for all those who can come and enjoy the forest as it grows.

John Morgan Chief Executive, Morgan Sindall

One of our strategic aims in the next five years is to not only offset out own carbon to be net zero, but also to help others do the same. This partnership with Morgan Sindall is a first for us and incredibly exciting in terms of both scale and what it will deliver in improving our estate, the environment, and surrounding communities.

Roy Cox Director, Blenheim Estates

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