The Forestry Panels’ first meeting


in Forestry Panel, Opinion

This Forestry Panel wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the recent, extraordinary, public outcry. We can’t think of one reason their work shouldn’t be transparent…

Any day now the Forestry Panel (we will no longer call it the independent panel), will meet to set out the guidelines of how they will structure their time together. I’m sure this first meeting will also be where they decide whether their meetings will be held publicly and how they will interact with us, the public.

The chair of the panel, Bishop James Jones, has indicated in communications with campaigns and comments to the media that we should “ assured that one of the priorities of the Panel will be to give time for us to meet with forest users so that we can hear your views and concerns”.

Aside from the fact our concerns are well documented already, this is expected by campaigners as a matter of course. However, it is not enough.

Recently Tony Whitbread, Chief Executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust, blogged “With a panel of 12 it should be expected that at least someone from an on the ground campaign should be there. The representatives who are there need to bear this in mind. If local campaigns are not represented then at least us in the NGOs should be prepared to pass on their views”.

The majority of panel members are not in themselves experts in forestry and therefore their capacity on the panel must be as representatives of their own groups policies. By their very nature, charitable organisations must adhere to, and do nothing that will diminish, their charities own aims and objectives.  So, yes, someone should have been given a seat on the panel from the truly independent local campaigns, we are not represented.

We believe that the omission of a representative of the local campaigns is serious and speaks volumes.

We at and the many other forest campaign groups, look forward to the opportunity to represent ourselves and therefore the 40 million people that use our forests, to the panel.

It’s all very well our voice being filtered through the NGOs… but as we had to fight to stop the public bodies bill without them, to instil confidence that our word is being presented faithfully, the panels’ communications must be public.



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paul March 30, 2011 at 14:53

Is this panel not rather pointless…..there can only be one conclusion ?

Tony Greaves March 30, 2011 at 16:01

Do not assume that is the case. They will have to publish the evidence on which they base their report and at least summarise what people say to them. If you want to influence their decisions, you must make a real effort to persuade them.

The recommendations will almost certainly be different from the plans that the government have abandoned. The question will be – how different.

Tony Greaves

J Flattery March 30, 2011 at 18:44

Yet again we will undoubtedly see the same old re-hashed information that has been published and published for many many years. It was time to move on. The FC have been the chef placing layer upon layer of kitchen roll, each layer representing the NGOs and others onto the spillage of funding available. Now those NGOs are to decide upon the future of what has become a institution of real worth. It is a ludicrous waste of time and money and an absolute and complete insult to every single forester in the UK.

Sue Baillie March 30, 2011 at 18:47

Paul: the only way the panel would be pointless is if we sit back and allow it to be. We have a voice – let’s use it!

I agree with Lord Greaves, we must all make the move to engage with the panel. We have already started here in the New Forest by inviting the panel to come a listen to our concerns. If they are to be open and transparent as Bishop James would have us believe, then they should not refuse! All the contact addresses and email addys for the panel can be found here – please share it. All you need do is write about the concerns for YOUR woods or forests.

Caroline Spelman said today that the 15% of woodlands/forests WILL BE SOLD WITHIN 4 YEARS

We still have a long way to go – but doing nothing is not an option!

HAL April 1, 2011 at 14:11

Latest news on the panel from DEFRA.

31 March 2011: The Independent Panel on Forestry met today for the first time. The Chair of the Panel, the Right Revered Bishop James Jones said “The huge groundswell of interest in this issue shows how much people value their forests and woods. The Panel intends to produce a first report in the autumn, with final recommendations on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England in spring 2012. The Panel is pleased that Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, has confirmed that no future sales will be made from the Public Forest Estate before the Panel makes its recommendations. The Panel will be going out and about on visits, and listening to and taking evidence from community and special interest groups.”

alex April 1, 2011 at 16:16

“The Panel is pleased that Caroline Spelman, the Secretary of State for Environment, has confirmed that no future sales will be made from the Public Forest Estate before the Panel makes its recommendations.”

— is that not including the 15%? Has DEFRA clarified this point?

Roderick Leslie April 10, 2011 at 11:29

Understanding and listening to the public voice is a key challenge for the panel. If it fails its reccomendations will be worthless. Some of the NGOs who went along with the Government’s plans have a long way to travel: it is their challenge rather than ours and how they cope with it may have as much impact on their futures as on the FC’s and the National Forests.

Despite everything, this is a time for real vision and the panel must step up to the mark, understand what Fc has achieved for the nation over the last decade and what the National Forests mean to people and go well beyond a sectoral carve up based on each of their individual interests.

I have some faith that The Bishop of Liverpool will as chair understand what this is about: a key player in urban regeneration, Newlands, the biggest programme ever to improve the dereliction around our cities is in his Diocese – and is perhaps the single most important achievement of FC in the last decade, helping improve the lives of tens of thousands of people.

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