REPLY FROM DEFRA RECEIVED 13 DEC 2010
Customer Contact Unit
30-34 Albert Embankment
Reply by email 13 December 2010
PUBLIC FOREST ESTATE
Thank you for your recent email about the Public Forest Estate in England. I have been asked to reply.
The Government is committed to shifting the balance of power from ‘Big Government’ to ‘Big Society’ by giving individuals, businesses, civil society organisations and local authorities a much bigger role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment and a much bigger say about our priorities for it. For forestry, this means examining how public benefits can be enhanced and secured, with a reduced role for the Government in owning and managing forest resources in England.
The Minister of State, Jim Paice, is clear that the protection of our most valuable and biodiverse forests will not be compromised. Press stories that forests will be sold and clear-felled for golf courses or “Centre Parc” type developments are untrue. Robust measures will remain to preserve the public and environmental benefits of woods and forests, under any new ownership arrangements. Tree felling is controlled through the licensing system managed by the Forestry Commission and any proposals for development will continue to be subject to the planning regime.
Defra and the Forestry Commission will consult shortly on proposals for new ownership options for the public forest estate in England, and the means to secure important public benefits, achieve our carbon budgets and meet our international biodiversity commitments.
This will be a new approach to ownership and management of woodlands and forests, with a reducing role for the State and a growing role for the private sector and civil society. At the same time, it reflects the Government’s firm commitment to the continued conservation of the biodiversity and other public benefits which forests and woodland provide. These aims are not incompatible with alternative models of ownership, or our commitment to the natural environment.
Defra - Customer Contact Unit
Sent: Wednesday, December 08, 2010 10:47 AM
Subject: FORESTRY COMMISSION SALE OF ANCIENT WOODLAND
For the attention of DEFRA - Lord Henley, Caroline Spellman MP, Jim Paice MP, Richard Benyon MP & The Forestry Commission
We are a UK-wide environmental network and as such are deeply concerned that the Coalition Government have plans to sell off substantial areas of Forestry Commission woodland and habitat. Whilst we understand that plantations are commercial crops and are obviously limited in lifespan, what is to be planted in their stead and how public access should then be managed are two main concerns which we would appreciate your comments and guidance upon please - the answers to which will govern our subsequent response.
1. We agree with the Woodland Trust who also have grave concerns that not all public forest land has yet been dedicated under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for permanent public access; this applies to sites where the Forestry Commission holds the leasehold rather than the freehold. We would strongly suggest that prior to disposals of land, public access needs to be safeguarded.
Why has this dedication not been achieved in full and if there are plans to do so, please indicate the timeline and who will manage the process?
2. Ancient woodland that has been planted with conifers and which will soon reach maturity and be uplifted/sold, will provide a great opportunity for the government to show its green credentials and restore these precious areas to their original species and habitat - BUT there are no mechanisms in place to guarantee that if these ancient woodlands are sold on to commercial or private interests that any such restoration will take place.
As the Woodland Trust make note, "revenue from these sales will not find its way back to the Forestry Commission and we believe this will seriously threaten Forestry Commission’s ability to support the future planting of new native woodland"
Will you guarantee restoration of planted ancient woods as a major priority for us all and especially for Government response to the climate change agenda?
Scribe, Sacred Grove Western Isles
368483 of us have signed so far!
UPDATING info via SGWI email dated 20 January 2011
Although we are awaiting the next step towards the Gov raising of money from the felling of trees, some of which will be plantation and time limited anyway but most concerning is the selling off of woodland and forest via the Forestry Commission owned property - today we have received clarification from Stuart Burgess of the FC and he confirmed the following:
1. FC are awaiting the date of the public consultation launch which will be for a period of 12 weeks - hopefully will be received in a couple of weeks - we are monitoring this and will send out the info as soon as it is to hand.
2. Public access, Rights of Way etc - Stuart confirmed that these are in place on 90% of FC owned land - what is not able to be applied for may be due to freehold ownership refusal, tenancy objects etc.
a. asked if there is a list of FC with public access = no - check the OS maps for each area we are concerned about.
b. Is there any list of CROW [ Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 ] related access in FC woodland that may be sold when the consultation list is published soon? = you can check on the
and the list of Local Access Forums = CROW
c. Woods for sale will be able to be bought by community interest groups, [ so when the list is published we need to be ready if we want to go down that route].
3. The Planning Portal will list the woods for development when they are sold so there will be time for objections etc
Please keep an eye on our SGWI page for the FC sell off, Sign the petition in red at the top of the FC campaign page please and pass it on, [38 degrees have 162679 to date]
and take up the challenge with the Woodland Trust and sign up for updates etc via their website which is on ours of course. They are awaiting the info we are prior to setting up their petition and campaign further
When you reply to this email please click Reply All so that others can share in your comments and ideas, many thanks.
SGWI will be forming a working group to format comments and objections to the proposed sale as soon as the planning consultation info is received - if you want to take part please contact us via this email or the website Welcome page via the Comment Box pm Admin facility - or leave a message in that Comment Box.
with best wishes
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UPDATE 27 JANUARY 2011 FROM SGWI ADMIN
The consultation is running from January 27 2011 for 12 weeks
We have contacted DEFRA today regarding the lack of a list of woods to be sold in order to be able to respond to the consultation documents fully -
so far all we have is the criteria that was agreed yesterday, in other words the type of woods that will be retained and those that will be sold.
" Public forest estate sales in England
On 2 December 2010, Ministers announced that approximately 40,000 hectares of land currently managed by Forestry Commission England would be sold over the
four year period 2011/12 to 2014/15.
Criteria to select woodlands for sale in 2011/12 have been approved by the Minister and will be used to determine the sales programme for 2011/12.
Sales criteria for 2012/13 and beyond will be determined following the public consultation on the Public Forest Estate in England launched on 27 January 2011. T
he Government expects to publish its response in late summer 2011.
We will publish the proposed sales list for 2011/12 on this page when finalised."
Note the different years and timings, and one of the FC people has just called us back, he says until a the sales list is available from DEFRA look at the map below to
give us a clue how the criteria fit [blue heritage = what would be sold?] until they get around to really explaining it more fully. Hope that is clear, let me know if it isnt :) Selection Criteria 2011 via related documents
Main document of Public Consultation info
For online version of the public consultation on the future of the public forest estate in England - read in conjunction with main consultation doc, pages relate to questions
then check fhe map of types of woods under the Forestry Commission
Looking at the consultation questions, we have set up these survey monkeys for our own research; they are fine as long as the questions are specific, we wont have
the emotional impetus behind us of having particular woods in mind that we could lose, so perhaps wait will we get a list?
We putting in a complaint that the list should have been published before the consultion period started today, ending on possibly 7 April, 12 weeks away from today?
John Humphries on BBC radio 4 said this morning to the Minister involved that its all very well saying those woods with SSSI and visitor centres would be retained, too much agro to think of selling that on, but John rightly said he loves his woods natural and no building, huts etc - there was a slight cough and the Minister saying well they
would have to look at each wood relative to the criteria - so read the criteria and see if it fits your local wood I suppose!
Stand by for busy discussions amongst ourselves and Woodland Trust etc and if anyone wants to work with the SGWI working party who honed their skills on the
visitor centre and traffic regulatory order on Stonehenge and helped win two public inquiries [still awaited] please get in contact with us.
This is our heritage, our woods, and if only 20% is in public ownership via the FC and 15% of that is going as I understand it, we are on a sticky wicket here.
FC say 90% of their owned land is public access under CROW and the rest is leased or owned by others and may or may not have similar access.
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION ON THE URGENT PETITIONS BOX ON THE WELCOME PAGE, MANY THANKS AND PLEASE PASS THIS ON!
Refresh Petition page to see total sigs,
368483 of us have signed at 01 Feb 2011
IF YOU WANT OUR NOTES TO HELP ANSWER THE DEFRA SURVEY SEND AN EMAIL ADDRESS VIA OUR CONTACT PAGE ABOVE PLEASE.
THE SALE IS OFF!!! ANNOUNCED 16 FEB 2011!
IT SEEMS WE HAVE MADE OUR POINT, TOO MUCH OPPOSITION AND THE GOVERNMENT HAS DECIDED NOT TO SELL - SO FAR SO GOOD BUT WE ARE CHECKING WHAT SALES WERE ALREADY STARTED BEFORE THE PLAN WAS ANNOUNCED - STAND BY FOR MORE INFO