Woodland cover in Epping Forest could increase by 10 per cent if councils and the Government worked together to boost tree planting, environmental campaigners have claimed.

Friends of the Earth is calling on the Government to mark National Tree Week this week by setting ambitious tree growing targets.

The organisation and mapping consultancy Terra Sulis, funded by People’s Postcode Lottery, mapped existing and potential woodland in England.

Their research shows that there are 363 hectares of land in Epping Forest which could be used for planting trees, without encroaching on high-value arable farmland, priority habitats, peat bogs or protected nature sites.

This would increase the amount of woodland in the area by 10 per cent, not including trees in urban areas such as parks and public gardens.

According to the government’s National Forest Inventory, only 11 per cent of Epping Forest’s 33,898 hectares of land are covered in woodland, and there is a potential for 1% more to be added, according to Friends of the Earth.

The organisation says much of it is low grade pasture and the Government should support farmers to grow trees on this sort of land.

But the National Farmers Union said it was important that tree planting for farmers was voluntary, to avoid negative impacts on their businesses.

Nationally, Friends of the Earth claims there is potential to double woodland cover in England, from its current level of 10 per cent.

Danny Gross, tree campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: "We're calling on Forestry Minister Zac Goldsmith to mark National Tree Week by setting an ambitious target to boost tree cover in England.

"Growing more trees would help us fight climate breakdown while enabling more people to access nature in their local area.

"We need more councils to step up and grow more trees, but it’s time that ministers in Westminster offer more funding for climate action at a local level."

Stuart Roberts, the NFU’s deputy president said: "Maintaining and managing existing trees and hedges, growing bigger hedgerows and planting new ones will play an important part in increasing the carbon stored on farms.

"It’s also important to note that farming’s contribution to net zero goes beyond planting trees.

"Improving productivity is top of the list when it comes to tackling our own emissions, and the third pillar of our aspiration is boosting renewable energy production and the bioeconomy.”

A spokesman for Defra said: "Tree planting remains at the heart of our ambitious environmental programme which is why we have committed to increase tree planting across the UK to 30,000 hectares per year by 2025.

"We have already consulted on our England Tree Strategy and announced a £640 million Nature for Climate Fund – which will be vital tools in ensuring we work closely with communities and landowners to accelerate tree planting and meet this ambitious target."​