Only seven per cent of England is now covered with trees, the lowest figure for any European country apart from Holland. New plantings stand at 5,000 hectares a year and the plan is to double that to 10,000 hectares.
Trees will be used to reclaim old mine and quarry workings and to purify the soil on contaminated land and the air near roads and cities.
Elliot Morley, minister for fisheries and countryside, said yesterday the emphasis would be on planting the right mix of trees in the right place.
'Trees will be planted for environmental and recreational reasons as well for timber, with public access and nature conservation important priorities,' he said.
The Forestry Commission has identified 175,000 hectares of derelict and sometimes contaminated land which is suitable for forestry. Not all of it will be used because of competing needs, but much of it is not suitable for building. Trees will decontaminate and stabilise the soil.