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MP welcomes news that forest panel could suggest to buy more woods rather than sell them off

May 27, 2011 4:08 PM
Originally published by Tim Farron

The news that the independent chair of the review of forests could suggest that government actually bring more forests into public ownership has been welcomed by South Lakes MP Tim Farron.

Tim has been a vocal campaigner to keep Lake District forests in public ownership. Many local residents have become involved in the online savelakelandsforests.org.uk campaign over fears that the government are planning to sell off forests in Cumbria.

Tim played a key role in the campaign to save Grizedale forest, he joined hundreds of demonstrators at January's rally, and Tim pressed government ministers to halt the plans in a number of meetings in Westminster. Because of campaigning by local residents and Tim the government agreed to set up a panel to look at the future of public forestry.

The Chair of that Independent panel of the future of the forests, the Right Rev Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, has said that he could recommend that the Government buys more woods - rather than sell them off.

Speaking to The Times newspaper on 26 May, the Bishop said:

"There are no holds barred as far as the panel is concerned. The letter I received from Caroline Spelman [the Environment Secretary] makes it very clear that there is a suspension of sales and they will wait until the panel has reported in full. The terms of reference allow us to advise on enlarging the amount of woodland. We would have to decide how we did that, through the private sector or the public estate."

"There is something almost spiritual in people's connection with forests. Clearly the [plans to sell off woodland] hit a nerve with the public and they feel very passionate about it...People are more conscious now that the environment is not a limitless larder that we can plunder with impunity. Trees have more than utilitarian function. There is a mystery in woods and trees that captures the public imagination."

Tim commenting on the news said: "I welcome the news that the panel are looking at extending public ownership over forests. Many local residents were worried like me that the panel did not have any anti-sell off campaigners on it - I am still working to make sure we keep forests open to all and in trust for future generations."