20 April 2011
Defra recently announced that the plan to sell off 15% of England’s public forest – started under the last government, and which was never subject to consultation but merely postponed (1) – is to go ahead within the span of the spending review (2). This means that 40,000 hectares will be sold within the next four years, with no genuine guarantee on the future of England’s remaining 218,000 hectares. (3)
The coalition's apparent u-turn on the forestry sale was heralded as a victory of people power, with Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman apologising in the House of Commons, saying "I am sorry, we got this one wrong – but we have listened to people's concerns". (4) While campaigners were rightly proud that the government seemed to have listened to them, the fight is far from over.
This recent announcement, quietly slipped out, unmasks the 'u-turn' as a mere stunt. The future of our forest is far from secure. People value and enjoy English woodland, which is an important part of our heritage. They want forests to be sustainably managed in the interests of biodiversity and climate protection, and they do not want their right of access to be removed or obstructed.
Penny Kemp, Green Party Environment spokesperson said, "Yet again, we see the true colours of this Coalition Government. They seem incapable of being truthful with the public. This latest u-turn on a u-turn is being done by stealth. Far from listening to the concerns of the public, they are treating them with contempt. The public made it quite clear that they considered a 30p investment by all to keep Britains forests in public ownership is tremendous value for money."
The Green Party believes that our forests should remain in public ownership. We want to work with the Forestry Commission to improve environmental stewardship of natural spaces, striking the right balance between public education, enjoyment, and preserving forests as a haven for wildlife.