Environmentalists slam forest sale bid

GOVERNMENT plans to sell off publicly-owned woodland have been slammed by Derbyshire’s Green Party.

Fifteen per cent of the public forest estate, worth an estimated £100m, is in the process of being sold, but in November, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice told the House of Lords Select Committee that he would consider selling the entire Forestry Commission land holding – amounting to 205,000 hectares in England.

Derbyshire has 3,154 hectares of Forestry Commission woodland – including heritage woods around Ladybower Reservoir and parts of the National Forest in South Derbyshire – and just under two third of this, 1,906 hectares, is situated in the High Peak alone.

Derbyshire Green Party Chairman David Foster said: “The Forestry Commission has a proven record in environmental protection and managing sites of special scientific interest.

“It is highly unlikely that the same kind of long term care and protection would be given to the land once in private hands.

“Ninety per cent of Forestry Commission land is open to the public and these access rights go far beyond the basic rights that the law offers.

“Inevitably, in private and commercial hands, public access would be downgraded. The principle concern of the new private owners will be to make a profit.”

Over 330,000 people have already signed a petition by the campaign group 38Degrees. In a recent YouGov poll, 84 per cent of people said they wanted the woodland to remain in public ownership.