The Great Forest Sell-Off

The Conservative government wishes to privatise the Forestry Commission and sell off much of our natural heritage:

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, is expected to announce plans within days to dispose of about half of the 748,000 hectares of woodland overseen by the Forestry Commission by 2020. The controversial decision will pave the way for a huge expansion in the number of Center Parcs-style holiday villages, golf courses, adventure sites and commercial logging operations throughout Britain as land is sold to private companies. Legislation which currently governs the treatment of “ancient forests” such as the Forest of Dean and Sherwood Forest is likely to be changed giving private firms the right to cut down trees. Laws governing Britain’s forests were included in the Magna Carta of 1215, and some date back even earlier.

If you think this is a good way saving money, you would do well to look at the numbers and see that the commission makes £63million income per year against the £30million subsidy. This is not about saving money, it’s about the putting the interests of private business owners over the vast majority of the population who enjoy these forests.

Now the Forestry Commission looks after vast amounts of estates, and many of these are indeed for generating sustainable timber etc, but it exists for the “protection and expansion” of Britain’s woodlands. What privatising it would mean is that large chunks of forest would end up in ownership of a few seriously wealthy people looking to set up some business proposition (land is expensive – it will go to the very rich, and the very rich are very good at telling the government what to do). It will take public land out of our hands. It will see the destruction of something that has taken decades to develop. It is a natural heritage; a haven for biodiversity and sustaining rich ecosystems; environmental protection against flooding. Once it’s gone – it really is gone.

You could of course sign this online petition, and you should. But if you genuinely care about woodlands, what would be much more beneficial is if you wrote to your MP. In fact, write with the clear intention of getting him or her to do something about this – be it sign an Early Day Motion, or to write to ask him or her to write to Caroline Spelman about the matter. Be clear about what the negative effects are (environmental damage, biodiversity, risks of flooding, and a potential reduction in public access rights). Do not write an email – write an actual letter, because MPs often use the amount of physical mail they receive as a barometer of public opinion.

You can find your local MP here. I’m afraid a vote in a ballot box only goes so far in the UK.

Share this Story

About Mark Newton

Born in 1981, live in the UK. I write about strange things.


  1. This is genuinely terrible. Who does she think she is? Saurman?

  2. Nothing gets people riled like trees, in my experience, so thank you for raising this issue. I’ve written to my MP to object.

  3. Ents. We need ents, lots of them.


  4. I wonder what the Coalition of Evil will attack next?

    Perhaps they’ll dissolve the right to roam – put condos up on the Coastal Path? Get the oiks off their lordships’ lands…

    They and their hunting buddies would love putting the rambling peasants back in their place & the only parkland left, on landed estates.


  5. It is sad, very sad. In Romania the things are even sader, because after the 1989 Revolution things went in the interest of individuals and the proud forests of the country are ripped off for money. Sometimes legally and sometimes ilegally. Such images http://www.emaramures.ro/userfiles/Image/Foto%20Maramures/Mediu/Magura-Moiseiului_defrisare_01.jpg become frequent and common unfortunately. There is no respect for National Parks either, since lands around them are cleared too. The odd thing is that we export raw wood, but we import furniture. Odd and infuriating.

  6. I think I tried to sign, but I’m not in the UK, so it probably didn’t go through. But I guess they wouldn’t listen to me anyway, since we Americans haven’t got a great track record to begin with when it comes to the environment…

  7. Thanks, Ros. Every letter that falls on their doormat really helps.

    Eric – well, I think the Right to Roam will be challenged if the woodlands fall into private hands.

    Mihai – that really is very sad indeed, thanks for sharing.

    SMD – ah well, thanks for trying.

  8. Maybe when they set aside these wonderful lands in the first place it was more of a way to keep them safe until developers and extract industries decided there was nowhere else to turn.
    This approach to conservation seems to be an ongoing situation here in the U.S. with our national parks and private companies’ burning desire to get there hands on the riches within.
    With the corporate stranglehold on our government, those once protected areas seem to be in play more and more. It’s usually pitched as a way to lessen U.S. dependency on foreign suppliers and keep money out of the hands of terrorists, foreign interests, the bogeyman, and so on.
    All the jingoism and platitudes in the world can’t mask the prime underlying reason private interests wish to pillage these landscapes: greed.

  9. I have signed the 38degrees petition and written to my MP, but I have a sinking feeling that this will not make any difference whatsoever. The few remaining ancient forests and woodland are likely to be decimated if the Forestry Commission is privatised and what will be left for future generations? An appalling proposal in my view.