Forests get a reprieve

No Comments |  Posted by Aston Hillbilly |  Category:Forestry Commission, News

Forestry land is safe from threat of complete sell-off

On the 17th February the Government announced a U-turn on the forestry sale proposal - www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12488847 - which essentially means is that public forests in England have a reduced risk of being sold: ‘reduced’ because the Government can still sell 15% of Forestry Commission land (you can read more on this here).

The previous plans to do this are now ‘on-hold’ following the recent public outcry, but will almost undoubtedly not be forgotten about in a hurry, and the Forestry Commission will also still be having 25% of its workforce cut.

The CTC’s official stance can been seen here and reads thus:

Forest mass sell-off on hold but cycle access still needs defending


CTC, the UK’s national cyclists’ organisation, has welcomed the Government’s cancellation of its plans to sell the majority of England’s forests. However, since there are still plans to sell 15% of that forestry, the campaign is on to defend access by bike.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman MP has announced that she will delete the clauses in the Public Bodies Bill that would have enabled the sale of one half of all Forestry Commission land. As a result, the Government will now abandon plans to facilitate the sale of this English Forestry Commission Estate. Instead it will set up a panel to advise on biodiversity and forest access.

Mr Cameron signalled the Government’s U-turn during Prime Minister’s questions yesterday. When asked whether he was happy with the Government’s “flagship policy” of forest sell-offs, the Prime Minister said: “The short answer to that is – no”.

CTC had been working behind the scenes to secure an acceptable outcome for cyclists, whatever the results of the Government’s consultation. In the run up to today’s announcement, Colin Palmer, CTC’s off-road advisor, met MPs, Peers and other potential allies, while CTC’s Chief Executive was due to speak to Environment Minister Richard Benyon MP this week. Benyon cancelled their meeting the day before Mr Cameron announced the end of the consultation.

Despite the Government’s U-turn, it still intends to sell 40,000 hectares, equivalent to 15% of the Forestry Commission estate - although these sales will not be implemented until the criteria are reassessed. CTC will campaign to retain cycle access in these forests.

Reflecting on the campaign so far, Colin Palmer said: “CTC has said all along that we’d prefer to see England’s forests remain in public ownership and we are now very pleased that the Government now seems to be accepting this principle. However, we need to ensure that cycle access is not lost in the future. We hope that Ministers now understand the importance to cycling of the forestry estate, and will look for ways to meet the increasing demand from families and mountainbikers for traffic-free cycling opportunities in the forest.”

So what can I do?

If you wish to continue pressure on this subject, there are several things you can do.

You can sign this petition, but more importantly contact your local MP. You can find their name and address on findyourmp.parliament.uk. Drop them a letter or email with at least three reasons for objecting; you can use the following as an example:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I am writing to you because I am strongly against the proposed selling off of up to 15% of Forestry Commission (FC) land to the private sector and the cutting of FC jobs.

I disagree with this for the following reasons:

  • If 25% of the FC staff are cut it will create difficulties in the management and profitability of FC land, potentially resulting in it being put up for sale again.
  • The work of the Forestry Commission in monitoring and regulating the commercial forestry of the private sector will probably increase dramatically in areas that woodland is sold. Given the FC budget cuts, it is unlikely it will have the staff to carry this out effectively and the natural environment will suffer as a consequence.
  • Restrictions on land use types decreases the value of land when it is sold. Therefore, I fear that sufficient restrictions will not be placed on land that is sold to ensure it remains managed on behalf of the people and the environment.
  • Public access and pathways are likely to suffer as they become a lower priority due to reduction of FC staff on FC land and lack of desire to continue public access on private land.
  • The cost to the public of recreational activities is likely to increase if woodlands are sold to the private sector due to the profit-driven management style of private enterprises.
  • Once forests and woodlands are sold, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the public sector to regain them.

To conclude, I urge you to stand against this disturbing proposal and fight to preserve our historic forests and woodlands, and the organisation that has evolved to manage and embrace its role in a modern environment.

Yours faithfully,

A. Voter

This is a national matter and one that may, or may not, affect Aston Hill directly. Please read up on it so you can make an informed decision on how you wish to treat the situation. However, if you ride bikes on Forestry Commission land then it’s very likely that it’s in your interests to make sure that Forestry Commission property remains publicly owned.

 | Tags: government, politics, privatisation, sell off

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