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Cllr Joe Porter: The benefits of planting community orchards

Cllr Joe Porter (CEN Steering Committee Member, and Cabinet Member for Climate Change & Biodiversity on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council)

During the height of the pandemic, we saw the very best of community spirit being harnessed across the Staffordshire Moorlands and the wider country to get people through one of the darkest periods in our history. I want to see this continue and apply the same spirit to other issues such as protecting our environment.

The belief in leaving our environment in a better state than we found it unites our communities. That's why I came up with the idea of planting community orchards across the Staffordshire Moorlands to bring people together to take pride in their local green spaces, help fight climate change and improve people's health and wellbeing.

Over the last year, we've planted a grand total of 22 community orchards in every corner of the District as part of the Queen's Green Canopy scheme and our local Nature Recovery Network. We've planted them in Leek, Biddulph and Cheadle and across our rural villages to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to enjoy the fruits of their labour. All the fruit and nut trees have been sourced locally to reduce their carbon footprint. Parish and town councils and community groups have been able to submit their site ideas for the orchards.

Too often, children don't get the opportunity to learn about where food comes from so they can make healthier choices. The best way to teach children about what they're eating is through discovery by growing food and cooking meals. So we invited local Scout groups, schools and young people to help plant some of the orchards to help enhance our local environment. After planting the trees, the children will help keep the trees watered, pick the fruit, prune them, and see the whole life cycle first-hand.

As a young adult who was part of the scouting movement, I know how important connecting with nature is for every child's life. Natural England published a report about childhood and nature, which found that 10% of children play in natural places such as woodlands, countryside, and heaths compared with 40% of children 30–40 years ago. The RSPB carried out a survey that found that 82% agreed that schools should play a role in ensuring all children experience nature. As a council, we will prioritise working with even more schools and youth groups in the next tree planting season and our upcoming Climate Change Community Fund.

As Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Biodiversity, I've enjoyed getting out into communities to lead the tree planting sessions and hope we do even more from November onwards. Once rooted in the ground, we hope that our ambitious community orchard scheme and wider tree planting programme will leave a lasting legacy and help us leave our environment in a better state than we inherited.


Views expressed in this blog are those of the author, not necessarily those of the Conservative Environment Network. If you are a CEN supporter, councillor, or parliamentarian and would like to write for the CEN blog, please email your idea to


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