Posts Tagged ‘sale of public forests’

Just a few months ago, over half a million of us came together to win an incredible victory. Against the odds we convinced the government to abandon their plans to sell our forests. [1] Together, we sounded the alarm with a massive petition, thousands of emails to MPs and national newspaper ads. People power worked!

But our forests could still be at risk. When the government abandoned their forest sell-off plans, they said they’d set up an “independent panel of experts” to help decide the future of our woodlands. Now, the panel is up and running. They’ve said they want to hear ideas from thousands of us about the best way to protect our beautiful forests for our children and grandchildren. [2]

The panel has just started work. But we know they answer to the same minister who cooked up the plans to sell the forests in the first place. So, although the panel could make sensible plans for our woodlands’ future, they could be under pressure to rubber-stamp more sell-offs. Together, we can stop that happening.

We don’t have long. We’ve got until the end of July to answer their questions about our woodlands. We need to make sure that they get tens of thousands of messages telling them how much we love our woods, as places to play, walk, cycle, learn and much more.

Can you take 2 minutes to answer the panel’s questions now? A flood of messages will show the panel that the public wants our forests protected, not sold off to private companies. We’ll collect all our answers together, and hand them over to the panel as a huge, people-powered message – protect our forests:
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/forests-panel

The questions the panel are asking aren’t complicated and you don’t need to be an expert to answer them. Anybody who cares about our forests can have a say. They’re asking things like, “what do forests and woods mean to you?” There are five questions all together. But if you’ve only got time to answer one or two, that’s fine as well.

Over half a million 38 Degrees members have already done an incredible job of protecting our woodlands. Now, we need to work together to make sure this panel knows how many of us care about our forests, and don’t want the government to try to go ahead with another sell-off.

Please take 2 minutes now and send your message to the forestry panel now
https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/forests-panel

Thanks for getting involved,

Hannah, Johnny, Marie, David, Cian, Becky and the 38 Degrees team

PS We’ve only got a few weeks to respond to the panel, so please send your message now. Get started here: https://secure.38degrees.org.uk/forests-panel

NOTES
[1] The Government scrapped plans to sell off the forests after 38 Degrees members mobilised:
http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2011/02/17/victory-government-to-scrap-plans-to-sell-our-forests/
[2] More information on the Forestry Panel:
http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/forestry/panel/
[3] Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will hear recommendations from the Panel before making further decisions on our forests
http://archive.defra.gov.uk/rural/forestry/documents/forestry-panel-spelman-jones
[4] More information on the Forestry Panel’s call for views:
http://archive.defra.gov.uk/rural/forestry/documents/forestry-panel-callforviews-110519.pdf
[5] You can add your thoughts about this campaign on the 38 Degrees blog:
http://blog.38degrees.org.uk/2011/06/30/protecting-our-forests-the-next-step/

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MP in the east of the region can be left in no doubt how the general population feel about the proposed forest disposal

Well done to everyone that attended. Maybe we all need to collar our MPs and let them know how we feel. I have still had no response from my MP Matthew Hancock. I hope it is because his post bag is full.

What worries me is the niggling doubt (thanks Graham) that the Government are up to something else more insidious and are using the forests as a smokescreen.

A letter I have written to my MP (Matthew Hancock) in respect of the above. Not particularly eloquent but the best I could do in the time available.

How did your MP vote? Have you written to them? Did you get a reply?

Dear Mr Hancock,

I write with reference to the recent debate concerning the
sale/disposal of the public forests in the House of Commons on 2nd
February.

While I understand the pragmatism behind following the party line, I
was greatly disappointed to read of your support for the proposal to
dispose of the Forest stock in the UK. Notwithstanding the questionable
financial premise, I fail to see how the motion can possibly be in the
public interest.

If your Chancellor is to be believed, in these times of financial
crisis, we have to ensure all these changes have a sound financial
footing. This policy seems to fail on this count and has already been
estimated to cost us several million pounds in the medium term. I am
confused here, if the policy has a negative impact on the national
purse, how can it be cost effective?

I believe it was disingenuous of your party to claim that the previous
administration is to blame for this policy and set a precedent by
disposing of 25,000 acres during their term in office. What you are
proposing here, the mass disposal of a public asset masquerading under
the guise of financial probity and “greater choice i.e. “localism, is
risible.

Looking to the longer term have you considered the potential cost to
the NHS? The forests provide a fantastic (publicly owned) resource
which is used by huge numbers of the population for exercise and
recreation. Removing this asset from public ownership will almost
inevitably lead to loss of the amenity and ultimately impact on the
health of the nation. Consider the sale of school playing fields under
the Thatcher regime, has this resulted in healthier, fitter children,
adolescents and adults? I think you know the answer to that. Increase
in obesity, heart disease and associated conditions are well
documented. Removing amenities from the public domain will not reverse
this position indeed, I can only see things deteriorating further. If
the trend continues, the cost to the NHS can only increase as more
hospitals, doctors and resources will be needed to cope with the
progressively worse health of the population. This suggests to me that
the policy, and the potential impact of the consequences, have not been
soundly thought through… pragmatism sacrificed on the altar of
political dogmatism maybe?

With a local perspective, do you have any idea how many people use and
exercise in Thetford Forest every week, all year round? I think you
will find it is more than you realise. (For the record, whatever the
proposed fate of Thetford Forest, my interest extends beyond parochial
concerns.)

History shows that Governments do their best to underwrite disposals or
disguise unpopular policies by claiming there are stringent caveats in
place protecting the public interest. Once the public have been
mollified, companies often seek amendments to suit their interests and
as there is no longer a political risk, adjustments are quietly allowed
with the public interest sacrificed for private gain. With respect,
private gain (i.e. big business) has always been an underlying theme in
Conservative policy and I do not see it changing in future, indeed all
I see at present is the removal of a support structure for the less
well off and its’ replacement by one to benefit the “rich”.

Sadly, for these reasons, I do not trust Mr Cameron’s motives and I am
disappointed to see that you were unable to look out for the good of
your constituents on this occasion.

Yours sincerely,