U-turn on forests’ sale

The government performed an extraordinary U-turn on plans to sell off English forests yesterday (February 17), in the face of public outcry.

Caroline Spelman, environment secretary apologised in parliament saying that they had ‘got this one wrong’ after the public and some MPs condemned the plans.

The public consultation on the forestry plans, which was underway and had nine weeks left to run, has been halted.

Under the plans, forests would have been sold to commercial timber companies and leases sold to charities and local authorities.

Caroline Spelman said: “I have taken a decision to end the consultation on the future of the Public Forest Estate and I take full responsibility for that. I am doing so because it is quite clear from the early responses to the consultation that the public and many MPs are not happy with the proposals we set out.”

Defra now plans to appoint an independent panel of experts to examine forestry policy in England and report back in the autumn.

The Woodland Trust welcomed the abandonment of the plans but warned that there was still work to be done to preserve England’s forests.

The Trust’s chief executive, Sue Holden said: “We welcome the opportunity for a more considered approach to the future of our much loved woodlands but our campaign continues.

“Whilst we welcome the removal of threats to public access, there is still an acute need for better protection of Ancient Woodland, our equivalent of the rainforests, and restoration of ancient woods planted with conifers.”

Alison Brown

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