Friday, 28 January 2011

Private Firms to buy up English forests - The Guardian

Charities and communities will acquire only 3% of woods, Forestry Comission documents reveal.

I cannot find the above article (written by John Vidal- Guardian's Environment Editor) online so here are some highlights from it. The full article can be see in today's copy of The Guardian.

  • The vast majority of England's public woodland will be offered for sale to commercial businesses, the Guardian has learnt from documents suggesteing that only 1% will be acquired by communities and 2% by charities

  • As government plans to sell off English forests at market rates were unveiled yesterday, DEFRA admitted it did not know whether local communities and charities would try to buy them - or even be able to raise the money to do so

  • Officials said they expect about 8% of woodland to be acquireds by "big society" groups. However, Forestry Comission documents seen by the Guardian suggest the proportion will be much lower

  • ...In the biggest change of English land ownership in 80 years, the public will be asked to raise tens of millions of pounds to buy and manage forest or see them go to commercial organisations on 150 year leases

  • Under government plans, new or existing charities will be given 80,000 hectares of England's "heritage" woodlands, such as the Forest of Dean and the New Forest, to run.

  • A further 13,000- 26,000 hectares of other wooded land managed by Forestry Comission will be offered to communities and charities at market rates. If these are not picked up, they will be offered, along with all England's large scale commercial forests, to businesses on the open market

  • The sale of the leases is expected to raise £150m - £250m over 10 years

The Prime Minister's spokesman said:
"We are not going to sell off our heritage forests to the highest bidder, we are not going to remove public access to forests - there will be strict rules in place to prevent that happening."

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