The U.K. government’s plan to sell commercial woodlands owned by the Forestry Commission, a state agency, doesn’t mean “heritage forests” will end up in the hands of the highest bidder, said Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Writing in the London-based Times, Spelman said areas such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean will stay “protected, enhanced and accessible to the public in perpetuity.”
She promised that England’s forest won’t be “bought up, chopped down and built over,” for the government wants to see woodland cover increase in both quality and quantity and intends to strengthen existing protections, such as the planning regime and felling licenses granted by the Forestry Commission.
If management or ownership of historic woodlands is transferred to charitable trusts, as envisaged, “absolute protections” will be in place to ensure public access and protect wildlife, Spelman wrote.
At the moment, the Forestry Commission is in the anomalous position of regulating the commercial woodland market in which it’s the biggest player, and taking commercial timber out of its hands would leave it free to concentrate on protecting and improving the forests, she concluded.