Monthly Archives: June 2014

FORESTs MATTER: June 2014 Update

Lack of a Forestry Bill – a HUGE Disappointment.

We were extremely disappointed that after a concerted attempt to lobby the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet and key MPs there was no mention of a Forestry Bill in the Queen’s Speech.  Our disappointment was matched by our surprise that this Government missed an opportunity to do something green for a change – something that, based on the outcry in 2010 and the amount of public support for the PFE, would have been a very popular action.  This sentiment was widespread through the Forest Campaigns Network, many of whom campaigned as hard as we did in the run up to 4 June.

The press release can be found here.  There was little take up by local print media, but we did manage to get a piece on BBC Radio Nottingham.

We have spoken with personnel from the Forestry Commission (FC) and DEFRA who insist that government is still committed to legislation that will protect the PFE from privatisation and provide it with a basis of proper financial support.  Both FC and DEFRA think that the lobbying has had a positive impact and they are keen to keep this issue high on the agenda so that the next administration will take it up in 2015.

The Future

However, at the end of the Queen’s Speech she says that other measures, not mentioned in the speech, may be put before parliament and there has been talk within the Forest Campaign Network of making a push to get legislation brought forward later this year.  There has also been discussion about using the opportunity of a Private Members Bill to promote a Forestry Bill.  On the face of it this seems quite attractive, but it might not be such a wise move.  If we’re successful and Government do take it up later in the year and the Bill falters, through lack of time, before the end of this Parliament it may be seen as a less attractive proposition for the new government post the general election: a new government may see it as the previous administration’s business and not want to take it up to completion.

Perhaps a better move will be to try to influence all the major parties to include the promise of a Forestry Bill in their General Election Manifesto and for it to be included in their first Queen’s Speech and business session.

Infrastructure Bill

This issue has been raised by Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF – Forest of Dean).  It is going through Parliament at the moment and could be one of the reasons why there was no Forestry Bill in the Queen’s Speech.  This may be a tad cynical, but HOOF write:

‘…the Bill proposes that the Secretary of State can hand over any amount of public land to the arms-length, non-departmental government body, the Homes & Communities Agency. This agency can then dispose of it to developers. There will be no need to go through local authority planning processes – the Secretary of State can give the green light without any local politicians or planners’ involvement, just by consulting a panel of two people. As for public rights of way, the proposed law allows any of them to be extinguished. There is no need for permission for easements (i.e. roads, power-lines, railways. drilling, tunnels, etc). And any existing laws that protect land and prevent it being built on, appear to be overridden by one simple enabling clause.

The Crown Estates are the biggest landowner and they apparently have been put outside the scope of the Bill.  However, there is no such protection for the second biggest holder of public land – yes, you guessed it – The Public Forest Estate.

A petition has been started by a HOOF supporter on 38 Degrees. If it gets enough signatures, the team at 38 Degrees may take it up and spread it around more: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/infrastructure-bill-allows-ministers-to-sell-off-public-land.

Please support this initiative and spread the word.  It would be really good to know if you have.

Your Views

If you have any comments or views on any of the above or would like to make an input into what we are doing please get in touch via sherwoodforestforever@gmail.com.

If you know people who would be interested to receive our updates please get in touch

Save Sherwood Forest

June 2014

New book on the Forest Vision

Roderick Leslie, co-founder of Our Forests!, has released a new book on the future of the public forest estate.

Timed to coincide with the Queen’s Speech, Forest Vision urges the government to cease stalling on the introduction of forestry legislation.  The author said: ‘This is the Government’s chance to end 3 years of uncertainty since the forest sales U-turn in 2011.’

Proposals put forward at the end of January, he says, should meet with wide support.  ‘They mirror the recommendations of Bishop James Jones’ Independent Forestry Panel and give the Government the opportunity to close this embarrassing episode – and ensure forest sales don’t become an election issue next year.’

Forest Vision tells the extraordinary story of how the Forestry Commission, managers of our nationally-owned forests, went from environmental pariah after the Flow Country controversy of the late 1980s to popular heroes in 2011.  ‘It looked like the end in 1988 when Chancellor Lawson removed the tax incentives driving upland conifer afforestation.  It is hard to believe that, 23 years later, over half a million people signed the 38 degrees petition against selling off the forests.’

The Forestry Commission survived because it recognised it had lost public confidence and set about changing the things people hated, completely re-designing its forests, embracing nature conservation and dramatically developing its already popular countryside recreation.  From England’s first nesting Ospreys for 100 years in 2001, to becoming the home of British mountain biking, the nationally owned forests have become part of more and more people’s lives.

Now, as the book describes, there are even bigger challenges for the future: Forestry Commission restoration of derelict land round our towns and cities opens up new opportunities for development and the environment, whilst forests and woodlands have a growing profile in tackling climate change, slowing the flow of flood waters and producing low-carbon woodfuel.

‘The Forestry Commission story proves that imaginative management can create a powerful synergy between the economy and the environment that saves money, creates jobs and increases the resilience of our environment to the increasingly frequent shocks of extreme weather,’ Roderick Leslie claims.

To obtain a copy of Forest Vision, please send a cheque for £12.99 + £2.50 p&p (UK only) to:

R.Leslie, 8 Somerset St, Bristol BS2 8NB.

For further information, such as BACS details and overseas postal rates, please contact the author on rodleslie@btinternet.com.