As previously published by SOW (24th Feb 2011 How will the Public Voice be Heard on the Independent Panel), it appeared that the panel would only have five seats. However, following numerous requests from campaign groups, individuals, and other interested parties to have a voice on the panel, the government may have realised that five seats was insufficient, given the importance and scope of the issues.
Rumour has it, there are now ten seats on the panel, plus a chairperson.
It is likely, of the ten seats, five will be chosen from forestry industries and operations (but not from the Forestry Commission) for example CONFOR (The Confederation of Forest Industries (UK) Ltd) may be included.
The other five seats will then be reserved for experts from within public organisations, that have knowledge and experience relevant to the issues, e.g. the Ramblers Association to advise on matters relating to access and the Wildlife Trusts as experts in conservation.
Members of the panel will be chosen as experts in their field rather than as representatives of their respective organisations. This will hopefully prevent conflict of interest between the aims of the panel and those of their organisation.
By this time next week we should know who is going to chair the panel. It appears that this has proved difficult, (as can often be the case) given the chairperson must be of sufficient standing and be truly independent. Certainly not a simple task when dealing with such a wide ranging issue…