Embarrassing information that investors keen to avoid inheritance tax are likely to purchase much of the land the government wants to sell by disbanding the Forestry Commission, means that it is likely the government will retreat from its plan to sell off our heritage. Since no inheritance tax is payable on forestry investment the treasury will actually LOSE money in the long-term from its plan, says Richard Murphy, director of Tax Research LLP. Since the idea has been touted as a plan to help pay off the nation’s debts that argument has now collapsed and revealed it to be an absurdity.
Still – we must keep a watchful eye. Here’s the timetable: there will be the announcement of a ‘public consultation’ within the next month. That will be the time for everyone to make their voices heard (which is why our best course of action now is to inform ourselves so we are ready to respond). At this point the plan may well be dropped. If not, and they foolishly and recklessly decide to proceed, a White Paper will be published in April. That will then have to be debated in the Commons and Lords and how long this will take cannot be determined at this stage. Meanwhile many groups and individuals are making their plans and for every day the government threatens to sell off our national forests it will lose friends in every corner of society: from former road protesters ready to stake their lives on protecting the forests at one end of the scale, through loyal members of groups like the Woodland Trust, the Ramblers Association and the RSPB, through to people who thought they were Tories and that their party would protect their countryside on the other end of the scale.