From this morning’s Guardian, by Nicholas Watt and John Vidal:
David Cameron has ordered ministers to carry out the government’s biggest U-turn since the general election by abandoning plans to change the ownership of 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodland.
Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, will announce on Friday that a consultation on the sale of forests will be ended after a furious backlash that united Tory supporters with environmentalists and the Socialist Workers party.
“The consultation is going to be terminated,” a government source has said. A No 10 insider added: “It’s a cock-up. We just did not think.”
The prime minister, who told MPs that he was not happy with the government’s handling of the issue, has ordered Spelman to:
• End the consultation on plans to dispose of about half of the 258,000 hectares of woodland in England run by the Forestry Commission by 2020.
• Establish an independent panel with environmentalists to reach consensus on reforms to improve access and biodiversity in forests.
• Drop clauses in the public bodies bill that would allow the government to sell off all of England’s forests. Under current laws only 15% of forests can be sold.
One government source said: “We have heard, we have listened. The consultation will be canned. The consultation will be terminated. It is now a case of coming up with something everyone is happy with.”