Restoring landfill into green space such as woodland and parkland is viable, says report

Restoring landfill sites by turning them into green space such as woodland, parkland or farmland is now possible, new research shows. The Forest Research report, funded by CLG, has found that good tree growth on these landfill sites has been achieved and that the establishment of vegetation is a vital part of their restoration.

Many local people find landfill sites detrimental to their local area and a common solution is for councils to close them over with a compacted clay cap to seal up the waste. There are about 2,500 closed and operational landfill sites in England and Wales.

The results of a 10-year research project into the establishment of woodland on landfill show that it is possible to restore these areas safely by planting certain trees, as long as strict safeguards are adhered to.

The Government is committed to reducing the UK's reliance on landfill to reduce their environmental impact.

The Landfill Directive has promoted more sustainable solutions and brought in important regulations that include abolishing the disposal of liquid, clinical and other hazardous waste.

Establishing trees and woodland on landfill has previously presented real challenges for landfill operators and local authorities, and until recently government guidelines actively discouraged it because of fears that the tree roots might not grow deep enough and if they did they might pierce the 'cap' letting out landfill gases.

In 1993 the Government acknowledged that further evidence and reassurances were needed to determine whether this could be done safely.
The Forestry Commission were asked to establish and monitor a number of experimental sites, which were specially engineered to control pollution control with the dense compacted landfill cap with a thick layer of soil for the tree roots.

Woodland planting can now be recommended as long as specific site safeguards including that the underlying mineral cap is constructed to standards required by government guidance. Poplar, alder, cherry, whitebeam, oak, ash and Corsican pine have been identified as well suited to the landfill environment.

Planning Minister, Iain Wright said: 'Many people find landfill sites a local eyesore and the government is committed to reducing landfill use.

'This new research shows that with the proper safeguards in place we can reduce the impact of old sites by planting them and environmentally reviving them as attractive woodland or parkland.'

'Restoring landfill sites in this way can provide local communities with more attractive green spaces, help tackle climate change, regenerate important brownfield land and provide new places for wildlife to live.'

Professor Andy Moffat from Forest Research, the Forestry Commission's scientific and research agency, said: 'Waste management and dealing with waste disposal sites such as landfills once they have reached their capacity, are significant environmental challenges, and restoring them to woodland is an attractive option in many cases.

'There is still further research to do particularly on long-term performance of trees on landfill sites and the specifications of soil caps, but as a result of this research we believe that with careful planning and management many landfill areas can be successfully restored as woodland.'

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