Private Eye didn’t beat about the bush with their report about the economics of a Public Forest Estate sale, pointing out that “as well as threatening jobs and access, any firm taking over the land and continuing forestry would still be eligible for public funding.”
The report goes on to point out:
When [the Forestry Commission] recently flogged an area of woodland for £60,000, for example, the new landowner immediately applied for funds under the English Woodland Grant Scheme to grow and cut timber and was given assistance totalling £55,000.
The private landowner will also be able to come back and ask for more grants in future – as well as bidding for other environmental stewardship and rural development subsidies available to forest owners – while the government can only sell the land once.
And of course DEFRA have already stated “there will be grant incentives for new planting that can be applied for.”
It really is starting to make no economic sense whatsoever in the case for a sale of the PFE, especially when you take in to account:
…the earnings the FC will lose from no longer selling timber (around £61m in 2008). Thanks to that cash, it costs the taxpayer just £15m a year to regulate and license the private forestry sector, plus providing numerous education schemes and leisure access to woodland, not to mention the FC scientists who do vital research to combat tree diseases – such as sudden oak death (now devastating larch trees in the south west) and pests like leaf miner moths which attack horse chestnuts.
The economic reasons for a sale of the PFE start to unravel. Please leave your comments below or join the Save Our Woods forum debate.