Government to buy more forests?
The Chair of the Independent panel of the future of the forests, the Right Rev Bishop of Liverpool, has said that he could recommend that the Government buys more woods – rather than the Government’s current plans to sell them off.
The panel was established after the Government was forced to ban down on plans to sell off the public forest estate. Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, says she still intends to sell 15% of the public forest estate regardless of what the panel recommends. The Bishop of Liverpool has taken a different view.
Speaking to The Times newspaper on 26 May, the Bishop said:
"There are no holds barred as far as the panel is concerned. The letter I received from Caroline Spelman [the Environment Secretary] makes it very clear that there is a suspension of sales and they will wait until the panel has reported in full. The terms of reference allow us to advise on enlarging the amount of woodland. We would have to decide how we did that, through the private sector or the public estate."
"There is something almost spiritual in people's connection with forests. Clearly the [privatisation plans] hit a nerve with the public and they feel very passionate about it...People are more conscious now that the environment is not a limitless larder that we can plunder with impunity. Trees have more than utilitarian function. There is a mystery in woods and trees that captures the public imagination."
Mary has welcomed the Bishops comments, saying:
“It is ironic that the independent panel could recommend expanding the public forests when the Tory-led Government has made clear it still plans to sell 15% of the estate.
“The Forestry Commission has this week announced plans to cut 240 staff and shut regional offices, as a result of the savings they have been asked to make by the Government. Despite the u-turn on forests, we are seeing the public forest estate run down with fewer frontline staff and less money to care for trees and wildlife.”