We’re going to get back to basics and hopefully clarify just what is going on!
Where did it all start?
The new coalition Government created a Public Bill enabling them to dispose of a considerable amount of quangos – The Public Bodies Bill [HL]. It went for it’s first reading at the House of Lords on the 28th October 2010.
It was immediately deemed by Lords and lawyers alike as “constitutionally offensive”.
Clauses 17 to 19 of the PBB relate to the Forestry Commission and the Public Forest Estate.
These clauses will:
…allow the Executive, in the form of the Secretary of State, to lay orders to change the Forestry Act 1967 and enable her/him to do whatever she/he likes; and also to change the constitutional structure of the Forestry Commission in any way she/he wants.
The ‘orders’ referred to include the selling of up to 100% of our Public Forest Estate.
All this without having to go through the proper scrutiny of either debate in the House of Commons or through Public Consultation.
Then the campaigns started…
Campaigns began to grow as more and more people became aware of the situation.
Save Our Forests who “represent the people who work in the public forests, who have the skills and experience to run them and know about the issues, who care about providing all of the benefits to the public and are honoured that you have entrusted them to be custodians of your public forest estate.”
38 Degrees were enlisted to start a petition, which has so far reached over half a million signatures! Aside from their other work, they do many radio & television appearances, spreading the message of the campaign far and wide!
Save England’s Forests successfully got the campaign media attention with their “Letter to the Press” signed by lots of celebrities, protesting against the proposed sell off. They continue to work hard, keeping the campaign in the forefront of the media.
Save Britains Forests created a facebook page, which currently has over 14, 000 members!
Save Our Woods formed to create an online platform to explore the complex issues surrounding the PFE sell off. This has attracted contributions from national/international landscape/environmental/forestry experts, Peers, politicians and the general public. It has also become a distribution ‘hub’ for getting high-value information out, quickly.
There are also many local campaigns, notably HOOF – Hands Off Our Forest in the Forest of Dean.
A complete list of your wonderful, regional campaigns, can be found on the left hand side of this page.
Then, the Public joined the debate!
Only AFTER so much pressure was applied to the government, from the different campaign groups, petition signatories, Peers in the House of Lords & experts, did they announce they were going to hold a Public Consultation on “the future ownership and management of the public forest estate in England “.
This is a cleverly worded, over-complicated questionnaire. It is missing one vital question; “Do you want our Public Forest Estate to stay in Public hands in perpetuity?”
It will run till the 21st April 2011. We strongly advise against rushing into responding to the consultation until ALL the facts are known.
15% of Public Forest Estate, the sale of which is now on hold
On the 11th of February, the government announced that the sale of 15% (40,000 hectares) of the PFE (which was already under way) would be “put on hold” until AFTER the public consultation has been completed.
The reasons for this are not entirely clear. However, it is vital that this sale is not confused with the campaign against the sell off of public woodland which will be made possible by the proposed Public Bodies Bill.
The government, by law, can only sell a maximum of 15% of the Public Forest Estate every 4 years. That’s why they created the Public Bodies Bill, they need it in order to give them the power to sell the other 85%.
Well, we all need to keep up the pressure on the government to throw out the Forestry clauses, 17 to 19, in the Public Bodies Bill. If we can achieve this, it will mean our Public Forest Estate is safe from sale. Also, any restructuring of the Forestry Commission (managers of the Public Forest Estate) can be properly debated with the depth it deserves.
Share the love you have for England’s woodlands, LOVE TREES!