Coalition: Selling Our Heritage - Our Forests - Our Future
The Coalition plans to sell off 150,000 hectares of forest and woodland in England in the biggest sale of public land for nearly 60 years were today confirmed by the government in a letter to MPs.
"[Our] intention is to fundamentally reform the public forestry estate, with diminishing public ownership and a greater role for private and civil society partners," said astatement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) website.
"This will be a new approach to ownership and management of woodlands and forests, with a reducing role for the state and a growing role for the private sector and civil society. We are committed to shifting the balance of power from 'big government' to 'big society' by giving individuals, businesses, civil society organisations and local authorities a much bigger role in protecting and enhancing the natural environment and a much bigger say about our priorities for it."
The measures, which were leaked this week, will be contained in the public bodies bill. They have already provoked a storm of controversy with opposition from the public and unions but guarded enthusiasm from many charities and conservation groups who expect to benefit from buying or managing the woodland that will become available.
"This will fail on all levels," said Malcolm Currie, a negotiator for the union Prospect.
"Three thousand employees' jobs and futures will be under threat as the land is pulled from under their feet and thousands of jobs in the private sector – in planting, growing, felling, hauling and milling wood – will be placed in peril. It's a prime example of the absurdity of the government's argument that the private sector will compensate for job losses in the public sector."
Mike Walker Editor of radical rural journal Country Standard states
"We must stop this act of crass vandalism, we cannot allow the the Tories to sell our future, the Forests are ours by right "a common treasury". We cannot allow our great forests, with their magnificent, mighty, century oaks to be to the millionaire land owning friends of the Tories ".
"Any future Labour Government must state it will take back these Forests without compensation".