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.
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