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.