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Government to sell/not sell national forests, yes, no, maybe

"xisting charities say they will not take on the heritage forests without long-term finance, and may not have the capacity to manage them, anyway. So the plans envisage a new charity, financed by the government – creating what looks suspiciously like a quango at a time when ministers are vigorously culling them."

Caroline Spelman loses her way in the woods

Forestry Commission sell-off might actually double the Government's bill

Mole – Kenneth Grahame tells us in The Wind in the Willows – approached the Wild Wood "with great cheerfulness of spirit" and at first found "nothing to alarm him". But soon, hostile creatures forced him off his path. Eventually, a rabbit rushed by muttering: "Get out of this you fool, get out." By then, he was utterly lost.
Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary – like Mole, a loyal, mild-mannered creature – seems to have retraced his steps. Cheerfully
launching her plans to privatise England's woods and forests in October, she has since been driven off course by unforeseen (by her) opposition. No doubt some Westminster rodent has told her to cut her losses. But she may not find a way out.
Certainly, as Spelman admits, her plans – involving the biggest change of land ownership in Britain since the Second World War – have caused "great consternation". A quarter of a million people have signed a petition against privatisation, while groups determined to protect local woodlands have proliferated.
Eighty-four per cent of those questioned told an opinion poll that woods and forests should be kept in public ownership: only 2 per cent disagreed. Last weekend, almost 100 leading public figures, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote to The Sunday Telegraph, calling the plans – which the newspaper revealed last October – "unconscionable" and "ill-conceived". And Lib Dem MPs have threatened to vote against them.
No wonder the hapless Spelman has mounted a damage limitation exercise, confessing that she has "been working incredibly hard" to "disabuse" any impression that she was "flogging off" the forests. But it is unlikely to get her out of the woods.
The consultation document launched on Thursday gives every sign of being cobbled together in a panic. Much of it, by officials' own admission, has yet to be thought out.
The new plan would divide the country's woodlands into three. The first group, "heritage forests" – such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean – would be
Read more at www.telegraph.co.uk

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