Forest takeovers questioned

The National Trust is being "hard-nosed" about the possibility of taking on responsibility for woodland currently managed by the Forestry Commission, director-general Fiona Reynolds said last week.

"Timber prices fluctuate and forests need long-term management," she said. "We can't just take it on and make a fortune out of it. We already have forests, though none are managed solely for profit - in fact, most run at a loss."

Indicating some dissatisfaction with the Government's approach to the proposed sell-off, she added: "There's a question as to whether it's been thought through. We had no prior warning before the proposals came out and we haven't yet made any decisions.

"There's still a long way to run and there are still so many questions we don't have answers to. Clearly, it has touched a nerve with the public, but if the Government does proceed with its plans we would want to be involved."

She said that while the trust was in principle capable of taking on such a role, "it's a big ask for any charity, especially smaller ones".

The trust's chairman Simon Jenkins echoed Reynolds' views, saying: "We have residual arrangements with a number of individual properties, but they are under pressure and we are fighting to hold onto them - we are chary of taking on any more such arrangements."

Jenkins added that 2010 had been "a sensational year" for the trust. "We have had more visitors, more members and more income than ever before," he said. The trust's 3.8 million members yielded the highest membership income - £130m - of any UK organisation.

"On current trends, we will have four-million members by 2013," Reynolds added. "I'd love to get it to five-million."

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