As expected and warned about in my last post Lord Ahmed has published a Ministerial Statement (this is not law, this is just a written statement) that gives Government’s commitments not to transfer any part of our public forests to the Homes and Communities Agency (while the land remains in its ownership – whatever that means?) and they commit to not including the new PFE management body in any regulations that specify which bodies can transfer land to the HCA.
In his statement Lord Ahmed also says that Government would like to make it ‘crystal clear‘ that it is not Government’s intention to ‘sell off socially or environmentally important publicly-owned land such as the nation’s forests. These forests are not surplus, they are in use and the new powers will not be used for this purpose.’
This Government failed to recognise the social and environmental importance of the PFE, then failed to bring in Forestry legislation on the back of the biggest public outcry and consultation on record and is now asking us to rely on their ‘intention’ to protect our forests. We’d much prefer to see this intent crystal clear in the bill.
“Suffice to say the statement does nothing to reassure anyone here in the Forest of Dean. It is made by a Government with six months left of its term. It is simply a statement which is not binding on any future government of whatever persuasion. It is made in the light of a four year failure to bring forward protective legislation for the PFE. Despite all of our best efforts to secure it.
This was again reinforced four years ago when the FC decided to dispose of Bircham Wood here in the Forest of Dean. When we sought to protect it under the 1981 act were told that despite being within the Statutory Forest and recorded in Hansard as such it was “not relevant” as it was not specifically listed in the Act.
Only exemption for the Public Forest Estate from the Infrastructure Bill will suffice.
It seems tragic that this Government seems determined to leave as they entered with a complete inability to appreciate the passion we all have for the PFE, hundreds & thousands of us!”
So we say good luck today in this afternoons debate Baroness Royall and we look forward to hearing you read out your amendment to the Infrastructure Bill to get our forests named exempt in this bill. Thank you!