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Government launches Forests “Consultation”

January 27th, 2011 by

The government launched its “consultation” today on how to privatise England’s forests. Here are a few first thoughts:

The forests aren’t safe until the clauses in the Public Bodies Bill that scrap legal protections for public woodlands are blocked.



Photograph by Ivan Dervisevic

- The Public Bodies Bill is currently in the House of Lords and its current wording gives the government powers to sell off up to 100% of the English forests without any further involvement from Parliament.

- Even if this government is stopped from selling-off the forests this time, the Bill would allow any future government to do it at any time. Can we really trust every government in coming years to keep that promise?

The fact that the government is now going into spin overdrive, offering warm words, spin, and a few genuine concessions, shows that our campaign is beginning to work.

- So that proves we need to keep going – if even more of us get involved, we can win!

- The more of us that get involved in the campaign, the better the chances that we keep our precious forests safe for future generations.

Horses on a field

Photograph by Chalkie_CC (Flickr)

- It’s good news that it looks like the government has made the concession of saying a small amount of the Public Forest Estate will at least not be sold off to private owners. But the reason so many of us have got involved in this campaign is because having 600,000 acres of publicly owned woodland all across England is a precious thing – we want to see all of that protected, not just a few famous sites while the rest is sold off.

- The best way to protect all our forests is to keep them in public hands — that’s why we will keep campaigning.

The public wants our forests kept in public hands for future generations – yet the government is only asking for our views on how to privatise it.

- The opinion poll last weekend, which 38 Degrees members clubbed together to pay for, showed that 84% of the public want the forest kept in public hands – so why isn’t the government offering this as an option?

- 1/4 million people from all around the UK have signed a petition against the forests being sold off.

- The government is pushing through changes to the law to enable privatisation, and has already embarked on selling off 15% of our woods.

If you haven’t yet passed on the petition to your friends and family, please help to spread the word and be part of the campaign to save our forests. Together, we’re going to keep the pressure up with rallies, letters to MPs, adverts and local meetings until the government abandons their plans and agree to keep our forests safe in public ownership.

Please share your comments/ideas below.

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  • http://saveourforests.co.uk/2011/01/27/initial-reactions-to-the-consultation-begin/ Initial Reactions to the Consultation Begin « Save Our Forests

    [...] 38 Degrees – Government Launches Forests “Consultation” [...]

  • Marguerita Russell

    Just reading the first few pages of the forest sell off online consultation document makes it evident that this consultation is a set up. Many people want to say that they don't want ANY sell off of publically owned forests, not how best to go about a sell off.

  • K Cotton

    It is vital that the 'consultation (https://www.surveymonkey.com/s…) is shown to be the farce that it is. It assumes that the future is now determined, leaves no room for disagreement with the tenet of the proposed sell-off and frames the questions so that you cannot disagree!!!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_TKSCQMQD73ADUWZZPEUAHKG23U Sparkle555_2000

    I've filled in the online consultation form. This is what I put in the “any other comments” box at the end of the survey:

    Please for just once could you listen to what the ordinary people of this country want. We don't want our forests sold off – we want them preserved for future generations to enjoy. They are not yours to sell. A recent opinion poll showed that 84% of the public want the forests kept in public hands, and at the time of writing, well over 300,000 people have signed a petition agreeing with this.
    This public consultation is a sham and a farce, because it already presumes that the sell-off will go ahead.
    You say that safeguards will be put in place to ensure that any future owners won't be able to damage the forests or restrict access to them, but why would the public believe this when this sham government has already broken so many pledges over the last few months (doubling/tripling tuition fees, scrapping of EMA, VAT increase, making thousands of frontline workers redundant, to name just a few)?

    There are several reasons why the sell-off should not go ahead:
    * It will be more difficult for walkers to access the land. New owners can put up fences, remove car parks and will have no obligation to maintain footpaths.
    * There will be no right for people like mountain bikers and horse riders to access these forests in future.
    * New owners will have no obligation to continue to protect and improve habitats for wildlife.
    * While the Forestry Commission is increasingly replacing conifers with native woodlands this process is likely to be reversed by new owners.
    * Many of the forests will probably end up being sold off to corporations and the wealthy elite, because charities and voluntary groups may not have sufficient resources to take them over, especially due to the recession and spending cuts. The former are the sort of people who consider money to be more important than anything else, so I certainly wouldn't trust them to protect the forests for future generations.
    * England already has fewer forests and woodland areas than many other countries, so do we really want to put the ones that are left at risk?

    Management, by the Forestry Commission, of all the public’s forests in England costs just 30 pence per taxpayer each year. Selling off the forests will hardly make a dent in the national deficit. It appears to me that this whole proposal is just a smokescreen for a massive land-grab by the wealthy elite and it is cultural vandalism of this country's heritage, as well as a major threat to the environment.

  • Dave Ohalloran

    I've completed the petition, e-mailed my MP, e-mailed my fiends.
    Has anyone picked up on the fact that 2011 is the International Year of the Forest??
    Could be the perfect time for the Government to feel embarrassed.

  • democracywanted
  • anne

    Sparkle555_2000 is spot-on. And not only are our forests not for selling, but the government needs to create more publicly-owned forests.They need to rewrite completely the terms of reference for this consultation in order to canvass ideas, not on sell-offs, but on future policy and management. But they won't, so we need to tell them that selling is not an option. And if they're worried about the Forestry Commission's dual role, then let them separate off the commercial arm – not difficult. For anyone who's interested, there's a 2007 report on sustainable forest management in Europe at http://www.foresteurope.org/fi…. (The next report will be published in a few months time).

  • Bridget McKeown

    This is the response I received from my MP, Michael Meacher
    Dear Bridget, Thank you for your email. I am appalled by these proposals. The Tory-led government's plan to sell-off England's forests is an act of environmental vandalism. This is not the first time the Tories have tried to sell off our forests. In the 1980s they sold off thousands of hectares of land. The true value of England's forests can never be reflected in the price the Tory-led government gets from selling them. The Public Bodies Bill, which Labour Peers are currently opposing in the House of Lords, paves the way for the complete sell-off of the English Forestry Commission Estate (FCE). It will allow Ministers to dispose of land without consulting Parliament. Tory Ministers have failed to clarify how rights to public access and the maintenance of biodiversity in our forests will be managed. Labour is leading the fight against the Bill in Parliament. This week my colleague Mary Creagh MP, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, launched a new website http://www.thislandisourland.org.uk to keep people updated on the campaign in Parliament. The Forestry Commission’s estate covers 18% of England’s wooded areas and 2% of land. It consists of over 1,000 woods covering over 250,000 hectares of land with around 250 million trees. The Government wants to remove all safeguards which protect these vital natural assets. Labour will continue to lead the fight against these plans in Parliament, and work alongside the many community campaigns fighting against these dangerous proposals. In the meantime, I have written to Caroline Spelman, the Minister responsible at DEFRA, passing on your complaint. Best regards, Michael Meacher Rt Hon Michael Meacher MPHouse of Commons

  • E Cot38

    will try and copy the e mail i got from my MP here goes!

    Dear Eileen

    Thank you for your e-mail; I completely understand your concerns on this issue. I am having a meeting with Jim Paice MP, the Minister responsible, where I will present the overwhelming response I have received from constituents on the proposed consultation plans that affect all forests.

    In addition to this I am campaigning to make Thetford Forest a ‘Heritage Forest’. Being designated a Heritage Forest means the forest cannot be sold to a private or commercial owner: instead it would have the highest level of protection of biodiversity and access for the public. This would protect it for future generation giving it statutory protection against being sold off. There are strong reasons for this proposal; 94% of the forest is classified as Sites of Special Scientific Interest and/or Special Protection Areas for birds and other fauna including Bats, Skylarks, Woodlarks and Stone Curlews. There are many historic monuments in the forest that are maintained by English Heritage. It is also a major tourist attraction with 1.5 million visitors per year and excellent facilities for walkers cyclists and riders.

    If you support the idea of Thetford being designated a Heritage Forest, please write to me or send an e-mail and I will ensure that this representation is presented to the Minister.

    Thank you very much for your interest in this important matter. I will make sure that your views are listened to on this issue and I will continue to seek a positive response from the Minister.

    Best wishes

    Elizabeth Truss MP

  • Alan Barrett

    I'm not convinced they had a legal mandate to even consider this. It was not in their manifesto, and we all know that if it's sold, it will be sold to people who don't care about keeping it as countryside for public access.

    Planners and developers will move in, pat themselves on the back for contributing to tory coffers, and rape the already too small green spaces of this country for personal gain.

    We're urging other countries to lessen their carbon footprint, how hypercritical to then plan for an increase in ours.

    Alan Barrett

  • Mark

    Go to this address and fill in the government survey.