A major funding boost has set Middlesbrough on target to meet an ambitious tree planting goal.
A successful bid to the Forestry Commission's Urban Tree Challenge Fund (UTCF) has secured just over £500,000 that will see 1,200 trees planted across the town.
And this week Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston and Executive member for Environment Cllr Dennis McCabe planted the first tree to get the project under way.
The UTCF provides support for planting trees across England's towns and cities, from street trees to community woodland.
Over the next two years, the trees will be planted at around 15 locations across Middlesbrough, marking a major step towards Mayor Andy Preston's vision of planting 10,000 trees in the borough.
Mayor Preston said: "Trees are the lungs of our environment and they're so, so important.
"Not only do they absorb CO2, but they help to enhance existing green areas and bring back lost open space.
"Over the next few years I want us to plant 10,000 trees across Middlesbrough, and this welcome funding has given us a great start."
Middlesbrough Council recognises the vital role played by the local landscape in promoting health and wellbeing, with the new trees helping to deliver a greener and healthier environment.
Growing evidence points to the physical and mental health benefits of green spaces, with access to green space associated with better health outcomes and increased longevity in older people.
Investing in tree planting in wards such as Newport, Park, North Ormesby, Brambles & Thorntree, Berwick Hills & Pallister and Longlands & Beechwood will enhance the life experience of residents in some of the borough's most deprived wards.
The planting will cover different types of open space including parks, playing fields, gardens and road corridors, and all planting will be accessible green space, located close to residents' homes, easy to walk to, physically accessible, safe to use and with well-maintained facilities.
Middlesbrough Council will carry out the work in partnership with Groundwork North East & Cumbria, who offer advice and support on planting and maintenance.
Councillor Dennis McCabe, Middlesbrough Council's Executive member for Environment, said: "This fantastic grant will make a real difference to communities across Middlesbrough for years to come.
"Trees are a wonderful resource that increase opportunities for recreation and physical activity, enhance wellbeing, improve the appearance of the town and contribute to tackling climate change.
"This is great first step towards making the Mayor's vision of 10,000 new trees in Middlesbrough a reality."
Pictured: Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston (L) and Councillor Dennis McCabe (R) plant a tree at Ayresome Gardens