Campaigners have said the sale of woodlands in the Peak District National Park is a sign of a growing "privatisation" of the countryside.
The Peak District National Park Authority has already sold off 14 woodlands, and is currently in the process of selling six more.
It says anyone can buy the woods – including members of the public and community groups – and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing “privatisation” of the countryside.
Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: “These beautiful woods belong to everyone. They’re a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong – and it could be a slippery slope.
”The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder?“
The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of ”securing these important landscape features“ and ”rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration“.
It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates.
The park authority says it has restored the woodlands and is now ”returning them to the community“ by selling them to reduce its liabilities and ”make the most of our resources“.
It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who ”love trees“, adding that it could be ”adjacent landowners, but it doesn’t have to be“.
Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says. ‘It is very easy to get rid of access rights’
But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: ”It’s ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside.
“Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights.”
The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at £20,000.
Another, Jackson’s Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price.
A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: “There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.”