Government make U-turn on the sale of the Public Forest Estate

On Thursday 17th February 2011 it was announced that the consultation into the future ownership and management of England’s Public Forest Estate will be halted, and that and all forestry clauses in the Public Bodies Bill will be scrapped.

In response to over half a million people protesting against the privatisation of up to 258,000 hectares of public forest, the Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, made a statement in the House of Commons yesterday declaring the end of the consultation, saying that the government had “got this one wrong”.

Mrs Spelman further announced the establishment of an independent panel to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England, and consider the role of the Public Forest Estate and Forestry Commission. The new panel will include representatives from key environmental, forestry, and access organisations, and will report its findings to the Secretary of State in autumn.

In her speech Mrs Spelman said “we have listened to people’s concerns … if there is one clear message from this experience, it is that people cherish their forests and woodlands and the benefits they bring.”