Vic-tree! Cities beat rural areas for tree cover as OVO Energy reveals greenest and greyest parts of England

20 April 2021

  • Surrey ranks leafiest area in Britain, with the Lake District the worst area for tree cover and Portsmouth the worst city
  • Major cities like London, Manchester and Leeds beat idyllic areas such as Cornwall, Norfolk and Suffolk when it comes to tree coverage
  • OVO Energy reveals rankings to encourage Brits to sign an online petition calling for the Government to set a legally-binding tree planting target to help combat climate change
  • To reach its 2050 net zero carbon emissions target, the UK needs to double its current tree planting rate, planting 1.5 billion more trees by 2050

20th April 2021 - Live in Surrey, Exeter or London? Well you're in leafy luck, as green energy supplier OVO Energy has revealed the leafiest parts of the country to live in according to tree cover percentage* - and the results might surprise you.

Teaming up with Bluesky - an aerial survey company that analyses tree cover using its National Tree MapTM technology - the figures revealed by OVO Energy show the startling difference in tree cover in a bid to encourage Brits to sign an online petition that asks the Government to set a legally-binding tree planting target.

Planting and protecting trees is one of the most readily available ways to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help slow down climate change. OVO Energy, who plant one carbon-fighting tree for each member every year, started the petition in the hope it reaches 10,000 signatures by 13th May, forcing the UK Government to respond.

Topping the leafy list is Surrey, which hails as the greenest area in England at 31% tree cover, or a tree-mendous 9.88 trees per person[1]. At the bottom end of the scale, surprisingly, is the Lake District with only 0.13% of its natural landscapes covered by trees. Furthermore, despite being famous for its scenic coastline, Portsmouth has the lowest tree cover percentage out of any city (4%), with only 5.53 trees per person [2].

This surprising rural vs city trend continues throughout the rankings, as areas renowned for their natural beauty score lower for tree cover when compared to England’s largest cities. Rural areas such as Cornwall (5%), Suffolk (8%) and Norfolk (12%) are beaten for percentage of tree cover by industrial hubs such as London (20%), Manchester (19%), Leeds (17%) and Newcastle (16%).

Exeter (21%), second best area for tree cover percentage, is nearly thirty times more leafy than nearby national park Exmoor, which comes in as the second worst area for percentage of tree cover at just 0.71%. Similarly in the North, metropolises Manchester (19%) and Leeds (17%), beat neighboring Yorkshire Dales for tree cover more than four times over (3.96%).

Bristol, known for its green credentials, unpredictably ranks as the 5th greyest city in England at 8% - and only 1 tree per person [3].

Elsewhere, London ranks third highest on the green list with over 20% of the city being covered with trees. Boroughs within central London such as Westminster (19%) and Southwark (20%) surprisingly outrank areas on the outskirts, such as Barking and Dagenham (9%). Even famously green Richmond upon Thames (27.04%) is just knocked off the top spot for greenest borough by Barnet (27.1%).

The top five best and worst areas to live in England for tree cover:

Highest tree cover percentage (1 best)
Surrey (30.92%)
Exeter (20.45%)
London (20.16%)
Plymouth (20.08%)
Gateshead (19.77%)

Lowest tree cover percentage (1 worst)
Portsmouth (3.97%)
Cornwall (4.46%)
Lincolnshire (5.67%)
Suffolk (7.67%)
Bristol (7.92%)

Alongside the petition, OVO Energy and its tree-planting partners - The Conservation Volunteers and the Woodland Trust have planted almost 2 million trees to help combat climate change, and are aiming to plant almost a million more over the coming year.

Kate Weinberg, Group Sustainability Director at OVO Energy, said “There is nothing more important than protecting the world we live in and trees are a huge part of that. It’s why they are so important to us at OVO Energy and why we plant one carbon-fighting tree for each member, every year. But we need more - in both rural and urban areas. Together, we must rally the Government to take action and set a legally-binding tree planting target. You can make a huge difference by taking just one minute to sign our petition today, helping the UK reach its all important net zero target.”

The UK has a net zero carbon emissions target enshrined in law, however to meet this, the Climate Change Committee recommends that 1.5 billion trees would need to be planted by 2050. This is the equivalent to an area of at least 30,000 hectares, or roughly 45,000 football pitches, every year. Current tree-planting rates are around 13,500 hectares per year, meaning tree planting rates need to more than double to meet this goal.

The petition, which can be found at, must reach 10,000 signatures before the deadline of 13th May in order for the Government to respond.


Notes to Editors:

*Tree cover percentage = the area of tree canopy as a percentage of the total area of interest

Methodology: Bluesky’s National Tree MapTM (NTM) is created using the UK’s most consistent and highest specification aerial photography and terrain datasets captured by Bluesky. Complex computational algorithms are applied to the data to extract information on spatial location, size and height of every tree. These are then represented as map features that can be analysed to generate a whole range of statistical data relating to tree coverage.

About OVO Energy
OVO Energy was founded in 2009 and redesigned the energy experience to be fair, effortless, green and simple for all customers. The company has spent the last decade investing in the market leading technology, customer service operations and digital products to help members cut their carbon emissions. OVO is on a mission through its sustainability strategy Plan Zero to tackle the most important issue of our time; the climate crisis, by bringing our customers with us on the journey towards zero carbon living. OVO Energy has committed to being a net zero carbon business and achieve bold science-based carbon reduction targets by 2030, while helping members halve their carbon footprint at the same time.

About Bluesky
Bluesky International is the leading aerial survey and geographic data company in the UK producing and maintaining seamless digital aerial photography and height data on a national scale in both Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland. Bluesky also undertakes bespoke surveys, including LiDAR, for a range of public and private sector clients.

As well as being an established and respected aerial survey company Bluesky International is also highly innovative and continually strives to develop new products and services by embracing new technology and methods. This has resulted in the development of some unique products such as the National Tree Map (NTM). 

These datasets underpin long term contracts with local and central governments and many major blue-chip companies from a range of market sectors including financial services, utilities, telecoms, web portals, construction and environment.  Bluesky International has offices in the UK, US, Republic of Ireland and a dedicated production centre in India.