Forest sell off backtrack, lies and spin
tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Sat Apr 2 12:21:54 BST 2011
Some public forests will still be sold off, minister admits
A chunk of England's publicly owned forest will
still be sold off, Caroline Spelman, the
Environment Secretary has admitted, despite the
public outcry over plans to privatise woodland.
By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent 8:26PM BST 30 Mar 2011
In an embarrassing admission earlier this year,
the minister was forced to back down from plans
to change the law so the government could sell
all the 258,000 hectares of woodland owned by the taxpayer.
"I am sorry, we got this one wrong, but we have
listened to people's concerns," Mrs Spelman told the commons in February.
But giving evidence to the Environment Select
Committee, she admitted that the government would
still go ahead with plans to get rid 15 per cent
of UK woodland - the maximum allowed without changing the current rules.
It means some 38,700 hectares, will be sold off over the next five years.
Proposals to sell off the land have generated
huge public opposition with one petition calling
for the plans to be scrapped generating more than 500,000 signatures.
Another petition calling for ancient woodlands to
be exempted from the sale, has been signed by 20,000 people in a week.
Those opposing the sale include Dame Judi Dench,
Bill Bryson, the writer and film producer, Trudy Styler.
Mrs Spelman said the sale would raise £100
million for the Environment Department (Defra),
which has suffered painful spending cuts as part
of the Coalition's drive to cut the deficit.
She insisted the sale would be mostly commerical forests.
Once protection for access and other benefits of
woodland had been addressed, she said "the
planned sales will be in a position to resume
within the period of the spending review, and
won't have an impact on expenditure".
Dr Hilary Allison, policy director at the
Woodland Trust, warned that there would be
further protests if the sale is not carried out carefully.
"If these sales are to go ahead the government
has to put condition on the sales so that public
beneift - that is public access and biodiversity
- are protected. We also expect to see the
Government fufil its commitment to the trust not
to sell PAWs [damaged ancient woodland sites
planted with conifers which should be restored by the government]."
Mrs Spelman defended her earlier consultation on
plans to dispose of the remainder of the public
forest estate to businesses, charities and
communities which provoked such widespread anger.
She said previous governments had already been selling off the public forests.
"I simply thought it was right to give the public
the chance to be consulted about the future of the forest estate," she said.
The government has pledged that the public would
not be prevented from enjoying the same
activities as they do currently, while the land is in public hands.
An independent panel has been set up to examine
the future of England's forests, which will
ensure the sale of 15 per cent and any further reforms benefit the public.
Coalition: we were wrong over forest sell-off 17 Feb 2011
More than half of Tories oppose forest sell-off 12 Feb 2011
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