Save England’s Forests respond to news that the planned sale of 15% of state-owned forests this year will be put on hold:

An extraordinary coalition has formed to stop the fire-sale of England’s forests. Today’s announcement merely delays the timetable for sale. We are not going to be distracted by Jim Paice’s concession to public opinion: the first tranche of sales, totalling 15% or our Public Forest Estate, will – as we understand – now be subject to the responses of DEFRA’s public consultation. 85% of our Public Forest Estate still remains at risk of disposal. The Government continues to push through new legislation without a mandate, which will give the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – now and at any time in the future – radical new powers to dispose of all of England’s public forest estate. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dame Judi Dench and almost 500,000 petition-signers demand that clauses 17 and 18 of the Public Bodies Bill be removed from the Public Bodies Bill. This is a vital step if the future of our forests is to be safeguarded. We also believe that the current consultation process should be reviewed and revised so as to include a proper consideration of all available options, including the non-disposal option, which is not currently the case. This is the challenge to which Caroline Spelman, Jim Paice and DEFRA must now respond.

Rachel Johnson – President, Save England’s Forests
Tamsin Omond – Chief Exec, Save England’s Forests

David Sulman, head of the UK Forest Products Association, who you might think would welcome more than 1,000 more woods on the market:

“It seems utterly perverse. On one hand, Defra acknowledges the value of forests yet on the other, it now wishes to divest itself of the valuable and unique national and natural resource. The current proposals provide no comfort or consolation for sawmills and other wood processing businesses in England. Businesses need certainty and confidence if they are to prosper. The government proposals provide neither, only increasing uncertainty.”


For all those who heard Spellman’s ‘defense’ on this morning’s Today programme we have been sent a rebuttal from our Friendly Forestry Expert:

“Spellman is going big on the conflict of interest argument and I don’t buy this.

Years ago the outfit was split into Forest Enterprise (the commercial arm that grows and sells trees) and the Forestry Commission which includes the regulatory function – so as far as I can see there is separation. This seems to be such an obvious error for her to make that I wonder if she has been ‘set up’ by her own people here!

Why try and mend something that isn’t broken – I’d never heard any complaints from industry about the regulatory regime before.
If it really is such a big issue the way to solve it would be to give the regulatory function (and staff) to Natural England or the Environment Agency who already have well established regulatory roles. That would be far easier and cheaper way to deal with any conflict.

Given all of this it just increases my suspicion about what they are really up to.”

Keep on answering the Consultation.
Yours SEF.

Save England’s Forests Response to DEFRA CONsultation:

Today, it appeared that after howls of protest from the great and the good, from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Editor in Chief of Best of British and Vintage Tractor by way of Lily Cole, not to mention hundreds of thousands of individual tree-huggers, Ministers in DEFRA have taken heed. No historic woodlands would be flogged to developers, we were told. The Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs herself, Caroline Spelman did a ring round, desperate to reassure campaigners such as Save England’s Forests that our trees were safe in her hands, and that the public should trust one person – er, the Secretary of State, ie Mrs Spelman – with extraordinary new powers to ‘dispose’ of all England’s publically owned forests.

Clearly, Mrs Spelman can no more ignore our concerns, and so she has given us the distraction of a consultation paper, whilst handing out forests to lobbying groups who should have been a part of our coalition – such as the Woodland Trust, which has been placated with the gift of the Forest of Dean. She’s the forest-fairy handing out sweeties from her lair.

But those who oppose her plans (and haven’t been given a forest) will not be fobbed off. So long as the Forestry Clauses remain in the Public Bodies Bill, we will not be persuaded to attend to the red herring of DEFRA’s consultation.

The broad coalition that we have gathered has made an impact. From Dame Judi Dench, Carol Ann Duffy, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Bill Bryson (president of CPRE), and the Heritage Alliance to 84% of the English public and 250,000 petition-signers. Our efforts will be redoubled until our forests are safe from the Public Bodies Bill.

Phone DEFRA today and ask to speak to Caroline Spellman. Demand she withdraw the Consultation until the Forestry Clauses in the Public Bodies Bill have been properly debated: 0207 238 6000

8 Responses to “NEWS”

  1. Please send me all your news emails pertaining to the forestry sell-off. Of particular interest to me is the New Forest where I work as a news reorter for the Bournemouth Daily Echo.
    Thanks in advance,
    Bob Jolliffe 01590 613803 (Lymington, New Forest office)

  2. Have phoned DEFRA and Emma Lynch said I was not allowed to be put through to Caroline Spelman as “the issue is now in consultation”.

  3. The forests are part of England’s heritage. They are public land and not the Treasury’s or DEFRA’s to sell. If sold or leased, the forests will fall into the hands of the unscrupulous – within 10 years ancient woodland trees will be felled ostensibly to pay for ‘maintenance’, wildlife will be decimated, building development will start and OUR forests will be gone.

    Have these people in government never been to a beech wood on an early spring morning and wondered the lime green light, wandered through the trees amongst spring or summer flowers, seen the intriguing signs of wildlife homes and runs, seen ice and snow clothing bare branches, seen beautiful fungi growing on decaying timber – or are cities and money the only lands they live in.

  4. The forests and woods of the UK should not be sold off to the highest private bidder, they must continue to be managed by the Forestry Commission, if Private owners could make a profit from managing these resources, then so can the Forestry Commission.

  5. As a member of The Woodland Trust&The National Trust I strongly deplore the coalition government`s
    intention to sell off or otherwise dispose of all publicly owned English forests.As a tax payer I insist this
    proposition be withdrawn and that all Forestry commission land must be maintained by the public purse.

  6. Fantastic Campaign! Thank you. This must not happen. I will help all I can.

  7. Far too much of Britain’s commercial, built and territiorial heritage has been sold off over the past thirty years and is now in the hands of faceless investment groups. Most of these seem to be foreign based with directors whose only interest is in making maximum profits with no concern for the interests of British people. Recent generations of almost every British family had members who fought and died in two ruinous wars believing their sacrifice would keep Britain free from foreign control. What has happened to the proceeds from the sale of our family silver? British tax-payers are still faced with paying off a massive national debt. The Forestry Commission costs us £15 million per year – a flea-bite in comparison and an investment most of us would gladly make to protect future access to our countryside by everyone and not just the priviledged.

  8. Once again Conservatives are trying to see off our heritage to private concerns. In the case of the forests there are potentially catestrophic consequences as preservation of ecosystems gives way to financial interests.

    We all understand that the country is in financial difficulties but the level of savings will be insignificant and likely to be swallowed up by the costs of the sell off process.

    Please please leave our forests in public ownership for all to enjoy.

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