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“An Act of Sheer Environmental Vandalism”

January 27th, 2011

The government’s consultation document on their proposals to dispose of England’s public forests was published today. What are some initial responses to the document? You can read the Woodland Trust’s response here.

But now, rather than quoting from The Guardian or The Independent, whose responses critics might argue are bound to be negative, let’s see what that traditionally Tory paper, The Telegraph (called by Private Eye The Torygraph) writes:

Forest sell-off could leave heritage sites in hands of ‘supermarkets and sleazy bankers’
Government claims that communities would benefit from the privatisation of the country’s forests were cast into doubt after the largest woodland charity said it would not take part in the sale.

The Woodland Trust, which officials suggested could take over some heritage forests, said that it did not have the funds to participate. Local authorities facing severe cut backs as part of the Government’s austerity drive are also thought unlikely to want to take on the expense. Opposition MPs warned that the sales would almost certainly be restricted to large companies or wealthy individuals such as “sleazy bankers” who may not be inclined to ensure public access to forests.

Mary Creagh, the shadow environment secretary, added: “It is an act of sheer environmental vandalism. Their plans will destroy the funding system which has protected England’s forests for nearly 100 years. “Private companies will cherry pick sites for commercial development and communities will be left struggling to preserve local woods without a budget.” Sue Holden, chief executive of the Trust, added: “While we fully support the concept of community ownership, we don’t believe that the charitable sector can be the solution to future care of all of the publicly owned heritage woodlands, as it will not have the resources to manage these for decades into the future without substantial and sustained government funding.

“We don’t believe the government has properly considered the feasibility of this option.” Read more

Before you gird your loins for several months of campaigning, you might want to relax with this brief film that reminds us (as if we need that!) of why we care about this subject: