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Posted by: Cain Blythe - CEnv MIEMA MIEEM MSc BSc (Hons) on 18/03/2011

Following the scrapping of The Coalition Government plans to sell off 258,000 hectares of English forestry estate, the Environment Secretary has announced that a forests panel will hold hearings across England. 

This measure follows the decision to scrap plans, following a furious outcry from political figures and the general public alike. The government originally put forward proposals to sell or lease England’s public forest estate to private sector bidders, or non-profit organisations. This posed a number of problems, with recent market values and tight timescales meaning that many organizations would simply not be able to raise the necessary funds to buy the land.

The Government came under serious pressure last month, when Dame Fiona Reynolds, director of the National Trust, currently comprising of over 3 million members, said that the sale would be a disaster for Britain. Dame Reynolds offered to find ways to acquire important forests, to safeguard their future, and hold them for England’s public. Many senior political figures also expressed growing concerns about the plans - at a recent Commons forestry debate, three Conservative and four Lib Dem MPs voted with Labour against the plans, and a further seven coalition MPs abstained from voting.

Following the controversy surrounding the plans, Prime Minister David Cameron eventually stepped in, ordering ministers to perform the biggest U-turn in the government, since the general election, by completely abandoning plans to change the ownership of state-owned forests. 

The Prime Minster, clearly displeased with the way the government handled the issue, ordered Spelman to end the consultation and create an independent panel with environmentalists. The panel are set to reach agreement on reforms to improve access and biodiversity in forests. The new plans also look set to remove current clauses in the public bodies’ bill that would potentially allow the government to sell off all of England's forests.

Certainly, these changes will be very welcome news for many environmentalists and Forest supporters, concerned about how the proposed plans would impact the protection of rare wildlife, and public access to woodland areas. Amongst the 70 or so members of the newly proposed panel are the RSPB, Institue of Chartered Foresters, The National Trust, Forestry Commission and the Wildlife Trust.

Categories: Habitat Creation
Tags: Forestry
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