I got an email from Ian Standing with this information that may be useful when contacting your MP or House of Lords member.
Your MP will tell you that everything is fine and that biodiversity will be guaranteed. He will also say that access to any woodlands sold off will be preserved under CROW Act (Countryside & Rights of Way Act – often called Right to Roam). This fallacy because CROW only permits access on foot and there is no obligation for new owners to provide paths or stiles etc. And if woods are bought for shooting game you will lose access altogether. If he argues about access, read him the letter I have posted below.
If he has boned up on the subject he will also say Wait for the White Paper which will re-assure you of our good intentions, But the problem is that the Minister Mr Paice has told the Lords Sub Committee that he want to dispose of the entire Public Forest Estate – and a most of the Forestry Commission as well. Its all in Hansard 24 November 2010, and under way in the Public Bodies Bill, clauses 16, 17 and 18. It will also soon be confirmed in a Government Consultation paper of 40 pages due out shortly. Its called “New Directions for the Forestry Estate in England” –
Remind him that none of this was in any manifesto and that local people are going to be very cross when they learn the truth. You can tell him that Tory Minister, Mark Harper for the Forest of Dean will lose his seat over this, and the Tory District Council here will be slaughtered in May.
Don’t be frightened by MPs. The trick is to keep very cool and calm and fix them with constant eye contact (it makes them nervous); Never argue but always ask questions, and more questions…. Ask him to go and see Mr Paice and Mrs Spelman and tell them of your concern – and the rapidly growing concern all over UK, and to report back to you. Suggest that he takes a look at the HOOF Website (best to write the address down before you go).
Hello, I love and have used the Forest of Dean for family recreation for years. I ride mountain bikes, and wish to illustrate to you a nearby example of what may happen if the FOD is sold off as intended by the government.
We used to cycle in an area of Forestry Commission land to the east of Hereford called West Wood, it is a very hilly area, and thickly covered by coniferous woodland. We shared the trails with walkers and horseriders, and things were very cordial for many years. Some of the steeper slopes to the south west were used by downhill mountain bikers, as is the Sallow Valletts area of the FOD, but they kept themselves to themselves, and apart from building trails, no harm was done, and any ‘risks’ were taken by the riders and not insurance matters.
We usually parked up in a small layby nearby and ride through West Wood on a long loop around Woolhope, taking in Common Hill and Haugh Wood. One day, we turned up and there were big signs saying that the whole area was now out of bounds to everybody except walkers as long as they kept to footpaths, however the only legal footpath passes along the bottom of the hill. Further investigation revealed that the Forestry had been sold to a private company, and any public access was now to be strictly controlled due to Health and Safety concerns. What a tragedy for all!
We haven’t ridden there since, and to all intents and purposes, the sale wiped away any ‘rights’ that locals and forest recreational users used to have, and the situation now is one of impasse.
I spoke with a friend who stables a horse at nearby Hope Springs Farm, and she said that the lack of access to previously-used woodland was very damaging to the Farm, as the stabling and livery was a previously a healthy business, and now riders that remain there have to exercise horses on the roads.