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Research says: Restore old landfills with trees

Landfill sites can be safely restored for farm, park or woodland use, according to a recent report.

Until recently, growing trees on landfill sites had been discouraged by the Government because of fears that deep tree roots might pierce the clay cap which seals in gases.

However, Planning Minister Iain Wright said: 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.

In 1993 the Government asked the Forestry Commission to create and monitor experimental sites to gain evidence and information on the technique. The sites were specially engineered to control pollution with a dense compacted landfill cap and a thick layer of soil for tree roots.

The Forestry Commissions research agency Forest Research reported on the sites progress, which spans a decade, and found good tree growth. It said it could now recommend restoring landfill sites safely with woodland by planting certain trees. But, it said, strict safeguards must be followed. For example Government standards must be met when constructing the underlying mineral cap.

Forest Research professor Andy Moffat added: There is still further research to do particularly on the long-term performance of tress on landfill sites and the specification of soil caps, but as 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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