Forestry Commission report moots opening private woodland to public and does not rule out forest sale

The Independent Panel on Forestry, set-up to advise the Government on the future of England's forests and woods, has published its progress report ahead of their final report to Government in spring 2012.

King's Wood - image: HW
King's Wood - image: HW

The panel is to explore opening up private woodland to the public and has not ruled out selling the 15 per cent of Government's Forestry Commission forests, the issue that prompted the furore leading to it to be set up in the first place.

Panel chair James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool, said: "Although our panel was born out of fierce debate over the future of the public forest estate, what has become apparent through our work so far is that we must look at the future of all woods and forests, not just the one fifth managed by the Forestry Commission.

"Through the 42,000 responses to our call for views, the public expressed their passion for forests as a place of recreation, to connect with nature and as a vital source of resources. These responses, along with the many people we have met on our visits, have helped inform our report."

The panel has identified in their progress report that future forestry policy should reflect the economic and ecological timescales of woodlands.

The progress report states that the panel sees a continuing role for a national public forest estate in England. The panel will explore how private woodlands could be opened to the public through offering landowners incentives to allow access.

Jones added: "For now all of our work, especially in relation to the woods and forests outside of the public forest estate, needs further development in the run up to making recommendations in our final report next year. But as ever the panel [is] dedicated to further exploring these emerging themes."

See http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/

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