Tories in fresh U-turn over sale of local forest

John Denham, MP for Southampton Itchen has thanked everyone who joined the campaign to keep parts of the New Forest, the Forest of Bere and other woodland in England in public hands after the Independent Panel on Forestry recently ruled that they should not be privatised.

Last year, over half a million people signed a petition against the Government’s plans to sell off England’s forests and Ministers were forced to set up an Independent Panel on Forestry to look at the issue.

The Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, recently completed the Government U-turn and announced that the public forests would remain in public hands, including the New Forest, the Forest of Bere, Creech Wood in Denmead and Queen’s Inclosure in Cowplain.  This announcement guarantees that 285,000 hectares of woodland will not be sold off and will remain available to the public.

John Denham MP said:

“The Tory-led Government’s out of touch proposal to sell off our forests shocked many people who love our ancient forests and woodlands and enjoy spending time in them.

“The thousands of people who signed the petition against the forestry sell-off should be proud that their contribution made a real difference.  This policy should never have been announced in the first place but I’m delighted that the New Forest and woodland like the Forest of Bere in Hampshire is now safe.  These are beautiful areas that local people have enjoyed for generations, and will continue to enjoy for years to come.”

Mary Creagh MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment Secretary, commented:

 “This report marks a new beginning for England’s woodlands.  Our forests are a much loved part our national natural heritage, and will play a pivotal role in the green economy and our low carbon future.  We welcome the Government’s announcement that they will not sell off the forest estate as planned.  We look forward to working on a cross-party basis to protect biodiversity, create more woodland and secure access for future generations to enjoy.”

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