Forestry panel gathers policy evidence

Analysis commissioned to look at current woodland funding arrangements and review community benefits and access.

Research is to be commissioned to assess the state of forestry in England, the Independent Forestry Panel has announced.

The panel was set up in March after a public outcry over Government plans to sell off parts of the Forestry Commission. A review of policy in other countries, types of community engagement and benefits and barriers to public access of forests is also being commissioned.

A workshop, in partnership with the University of East Anglia, will tap into expertise from the academic, charitable, Government, industrial, campaigning and literary sectors to explore the social and cultural connections that people have with trees, woods and forests.

Defra secretary Caroline Spelman set up the panel to advise on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England after the Government's sell-off plans were suspended.

The panel has visited the Forest of Dean and Northumberland. Future visits are set to include Kent, Cumbria, Devon, East Anglia, New Forest, Nottinghamshire, Wyre and Yorkshire.

More than 40,000 people have submitted ideas to the panel. A progress report will be issued in November with a final report due next April.

Commission cuts Sites and services axed

The Forestry Panel is chaired by Bishop of Liverpool James Jones but found no place for former Forestry Commission chairman Lord Clark, who was vocal in his opposition to the Government's planned forest and woodland sell-off.

The Forestry Commission has outlined details to staff of how it intends to implement the 26 per cent cuts to its budget up to 2015. Hundreds of jobs are set to go, with sites and offices closed and a reduction in the services it offers to the public.

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