Our letter to the press:

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We believe the Government’s decision to pursue legislation to allow the disposal of all England’s public forest estate is wrong.

Three clauses in the Public Bodies Bill 2010-11, currently being debated in Parliament, will authorise the Government to sell the whole of our public forest estate to commercial interests on the open market. Without asking our permission Government has already allowed the sale of 15% of our public woodlands.  Similar plans have been rejected by the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.

We, who love, use and share the English forests believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted.

Only eighteen percent of English woodland remains under state protection for the benefit of the public. It is our national heritage. We are an island nation yet more people escape to the forest than to the seaside. Our forests nurture countless species of native plants and wildlife. We have relied on them since time immemorial yet we are only a heartbeat in their history.

The intention of the Bill is to scale back government agencies to meet the financial constraints of our time.  The Forestry Commission, created in 1919, is one such agency. We appreciate the need for reform but the irreversible sale of our public forest estate is the most destructive of all possible options. Indeed a 2009 public consultation into the long-term role of the Forestry Commission Public Forest Estate found overwhelmingly that the public estate should expand, rather than disappear.

We who know the value of the forests fear that over time, the public’s access to them will be limited and their protection, eroded. Indeed the recently privatised Rigg Wood now has no visitor services and a bolted gate.

The Minister of State for Agriculture and Food, Jim Paice, has offered only vague assurances, admitting: “It would be a brave politician who guaranteed anything.”

We, the undersigned, believe it unconscionable, that future generations will no longer enjoy the guarantee of a public forest estate.

Government should remove the three ill-conceived clauses from the Public Bodies Bill, and suspend any significant sales, until the public has been fully consulted.

We expect our leaders to engage in real dialogue with communities throughout the country to create a sustainable future for our public woods & forests.

See below for a list of signatories

List of Signatories:

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Rachel Johnson, President, Save England’s Forests

Sir Martin Rees, Astronomer Royal

Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate

Tony Juniper, Special Adviser to the Prince of Wales’ Rainforest Project

Bill Bryson, president, Campaign to Protect Rural England

Lloyd Grossman, chairman of the Heritage Alliance

Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (++ Rowan Cantaur)

Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Michael Perham (+Michael Gloucestr)

Rabbi Dr David Goldberg, Emeritus Rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue

Mr Farooq Murad. Secretary General, MCB

Dame Judi Dench, actor

Annie Lennox, singer

Anthony Gormley, artist

Tracey Emin, artist

Gavin Turk, artist

Geoffrey Hill, Oxford Professor of Poetry

Baroness Young of Hornsey

Caroline Lucas, MP for Bright Pavilion and leader of the Green Party

Ken Livingstone, London Mayoral Candidate (Labour)

Mark Constantine, co-founder, Lush Ltd

Lily Cole, model and actor

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, chef and campaigner

John Houlihan, Chairman, British Mountain Bike Orienteering

Oona King, working peer

Trudie Styler, actress and producer

Nick Jones, founder, Soho House Group

Julian Barnes, author

Katherine Hamnett, designer

Camila Batmangheilidjh, founder, Kids Company

Tim Smit, CEO and co-founder, Eden Project

Rob Hopkins, co-founder, Transition Network

Trustees of the Natural Beekeeping Trust

Rosie Boycott, broadcaster

Gillian Anderson, actor

Gordon Roddick, philanthropist

Wayne Hemingway MBE, designer

Dame Joan Bakewell, writer and broadcaster

Giles Coren, writer and broadcaster

Tracey Marchioness of Worcester

Ben Fogle, expeditionist and broadcster

Dylan Jones, editor, GQ magazine

Sue Perkins, comedian and broadcaster

Richard E Grant, actor

Lisa Bilton, Mothers4Children

Stephen Bayley, author

Alex James, broadcaster and farmer

Kathy Lette, author

Edward Whitley, Whitley Fund for Nature

Anne Robinson, broadcaster

Rachel Billington, author

Christopher Simon Sykes, author

Lady Helen Taylor

Bill Amberg, designer

Susie Forbes, journalist

Henry Porter, journalist

Rowley Leigh, chef

Camilla Woodward, philanthropist

Ben Elliot, co-founder, Quintessentially

Joanna Trollope, author

Ronni Ancona, comedian

Dame Vivienne Westwood, designer

Katherine Hamnett, designer

Lord Roy Hattersley, politician, author, journalist

Jonathan Porritt, Founder, Director Forum for the Future

Lord Clark of Windermere (former Chair of the Forestry Commission)

Claire Tomalin, author and biographer

Kevin Gopal, editor of the Big Issue in the North MP

New Economics Foundation

Paul Fisher, editor, Cotswold Water Park Life MP

Andy Harries, Chief Exec, Left Bank Pictures

Michael Frayn, playwright and novelist

Annabelle Bond, expeditionist

Ranulph Fiennes OBE, adventurer and writer

Stanley Johnson, author and politician

Dr Robert MacFarlane, author

Eugenie Harvey, UK director, 10:10

Trustees of the Women’s Environmental Network

Charley Boorman, adventurer, writer, actor

Richard Briers, actor

Foragers Pub UK

Andy Goldring, Chief Exec, Permaculture Association

Leo Johnson, Sustainable Finance Ltd

Dr Richard Lofthouse, Editor, Oxford Today

Ian Beacham, Editor in Chief, Best of British and Vintage Tractor and
Countryside Heritage

Dr Jerome Lewis, co-director of cultures of Sustainability, UCL
Environment Institute

Toby Gardner, NERC Fellow and Darwin College Research Fellow,
Conservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of

Dr David Humphreys, senior lecturer in Environmental Policy, the Open University