Infrastructure Bill: Firesale of Forests & Public Land

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed Nov 5 23:48:28 GMT 2014

'As soon as we raised the alarm, the Government 
attempted to put the lid on by confirming forests 
weren't included in the land transfer schemes 
contained in Clause 21 of the Bill. I invite 
anyone to read this section, as the only land 
exempt from disposal detailed in the Bill is that owned by the royal family. '

Save Our Forests & Public Land!
Hands Off Our Forests
Tuesday, 4th November 2014

The new Infrastructure Bill will allow 
development on ANY public land or forest, allow 
anywhere to be fracked and will allow the 
extermination of barn owls, red kites, wild boar 
and goshawks. We must stop this bill becominng law!

DID you know legislation is currently being 
pushed through Parliament that will allow any 
public land to be transferred by a Government 
agency, all rights of way extinguished, to private developers?

Did you know the same law – the Infrastructure 
Bill – will allow any substance whatsoever to be 
dumped under any land, and that it will become a 
legal objective to frack anywhere where there is 
the potential of shale gas, or turn any coal seam into gas?

Did you also know that the same law gives the 
potential go-ahead to exterminate barn owls, red 
kites, goshawks, wild boar, and a great many 
other species not deemed as 'native'?

You'd be forgiven for not knowing because 
incredibly – despite its massive implications for 
nature, the environment and also our rural and 
urban spaces – the Infrastructure Bill has almost entirely not made the news.

There are no celebrities crying 'foul' or any 
politicians who are supposed to be opposed to the 
Government. It's almost as if all parties want 
this law to be passed under the radar, because 
whoever gets in after May 2015 will have carte 
blanche to hand over our countryside, urban 
public spaces, and the ground we walk and live on, to multinational companies.

Thankfully people have started raising the alarm 
about the TTIP US-EU trade deal and its potential 
for the privatisation of everything. These 
discussions are being held behind closed doors, 
and its only thanks to leaks from German MEPs 
that we have an inkling of what's being said.

The Infrastructure Bill, however, has already 
been debated in the House of Lords for a total 
period of about 10 days, and yet apparently it's 
not worth reporting. The Bill in its totality, 
and all the proposed amendments, can be read on 
the Parliament website. It's there in black and white.

And yet we campaigners in the Forest of Dean only 
spotted its existence and content when, 
disappointed after draft legislation we'd been 
promised aimed at protecting our forests was 
jettisoned by the Government in June, we decided 
to look into what else the Government might have up its sleeve.

As soon as we raised the alarm, the Government 
attempted to put the lid on by confirming forests 
weren't included in the land transfer schemes 
contained in Clause 21 of the Bill. I invite 
anyone to read this section, as the only land 
exempt from disposal detailed in the Bill is that owned by the royal family.

We have heard various arguments – forests and 
national parks can't be included because they are 
not surplus, the only land being considered is 
brownfield, and only land held by arms-length 
bodies can be included. I'll let anyone read 
Clause 21 (and Section 53A of it in particular) 
themselves and draw their own conclusions. The 
words surplus, brownfield, arms-length or any equivalent do not appear.

There is no exemption whatsoever for any public 
land (apart from Crown) contained within the Bill.

An oversight, poorly defined drafting that could 
easily be rectified, you'd think. If the 
Government says forests aren't at risk of land 
transfer schemes, then why not amend the Bill to state that?

But Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, a member of the 
Hands Off Our Forest steering group, with the 
Bishop of St Albans, have been told by the 
Government's Baroness Kramer that their amendment 
to exclude the Public Forest Estate "will be resisted".

The Bill is due to be debated in the Reports 
Stage in November. After that there will be a 
third reading and – if the Government doesn't 
back the amendment on forests – there is likely 
to be a vote. Hence we at HOOF are urging people 
to lobby lords to support Baroness Royall and the 
Bishop of St Albans' amendment. See 

The fracking elements also cause us alarm because 
our Forest of Dean is a coalfield – coal 
gasification (when seams are set fire to and the 
gas recovered from a power plant above) is part 
of the proposed 'energy mix'; we also have 
proposed expansion of nuclear power stations just 
across the river (Severn) from us. Back in the 
1980s, the Government tried to persuade the local 
authority to allow disused mine shafts to dump 
radioactive waste. The waste produced from fracking is also partly radioactive.

So there we have it, the Infrastructure Bill – 
opening the door wide for any future government 
to take any land, override any easements and 
rights of way, and give to the Government, with a 
wide remit to destroy a wide range of species, 
and to frack under any public or private land. 
Energy minister Baroness Verma noted in the last 
day of the Committee stage in the Lords (October 
14) that regarding the consultation about 
fracking: "Stakeholder responses from the 
petroleum and geothermal industry unanimously 
supported the legislation, as did wider industry, 
such as manufacturing, the steel industry and 
engineering associations... Environmental groups 
and various civil society organisations opposed 
legislation. Having carefully considered the 
various issues raised within the consultation 
responses and whether any compelling new 
arguments had been presented, we firmly believe 
that the proposed policy is the right approach."

Remember February 2011, when the Government's 
Caroline Spelman made great virtue of the fact 
that the Government had listened to the public 
when she ditched the forests sell-off proposal? 
Well the public's views don't seem to be worth 
listening to now, not big industry has spoken...

Here in the Forest of Dean, thanks to us 
extensively leafletting and using social media, 
there is a growing clamour against the 
Infrastructure Bill. The media have given us no 
help – recent correspondence with one editor said 
unless we "hit them between the eyes" it won't 
make the paper. Our remit is protecting the 
Public Forest Estate, others may want to protect 
their local beach, mountain, park, recreation 
ground, allotment or remaining green space...

I would have thought everyone should be up in 
arms about this. Are you? Will you help us spread the word?

to find out which MPs to lobby.

Below are a couple of links which give some background:


Infrastructure Bill

We don't have long to stop this! Affirmative action now, or else...


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