Monday, February 07, 2011

More on the English Forest Estate.

After receiving 200 emails and letters asking me to oppose the Coalition Government's plans to divest itself of it's English forestry estate, I've received 50 emails expressing disappointment that I did not agree. Which is all rather odd, in that I started off with some sympathy with the opposition. But I awaited confirmation of the actual proposals, and decided that I can hardly vote against a consultation process.

One aspect of the opposition that narks me is the implication that charitable and voluntary ownership and management is inferior to state ownership. Not in my book, its not. Until I was elected an MP, I was a trustee of Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust. We owned around 20 reserves in Montg. and had hundreds of volunteers helping out. I've also been a member of the National Trust for decades. We have millions of members. Several of my friends work as 'guides' at Powis Castle, an NT property 3 miles from my house. They volunteer because they love it. And I've been member of the RSPB for decades. The RSPB is one of the biggest landlords in the UK. The suggestion that voluntary and charitable bodies cannot own and manage land is as offensive as it is inaccurate.

And objection to the state selling its commercial forestry is not as straight forward as it seems either. On Saturday I was talking to the principal of a large local timber firm, who had wanted to buy lorry loads of felled Forestry Commission timber, only to be refused because he is not on a 'list' of preferred buyers. This timber will be allowed to deteriorate to a state where it is only fit for Kronospan chipboarding, at a fraction of the price. Can you imagine a private commercial business tolerating such stupidity.

I just hope that all these people who are emailing me and writing to me read the Consultation Document, and write to the Coalition Government outlining their thoughts - without 'guidance' from 38 Degrees. I want to see some changes, and look forward to seeing what changes are made.


the outsider said...

are you saying that you would only support sales to charitable trusts? If so that would not be too bad as long as riders, cyclists and wakers retained, as a condition of the sale, their long established use of the woodland. It then only falls to the practical questions of funds for management, public access facilities, conservation policy, regeneration policy, harvesting, replanting and commercial use etc etc.
If however you are suggesting that in these times of austerity, it is worth saving a few million pound, in order to sell off public assets on the cheap, and thereby remove from this generation and those that follow the the simple outdoor pleasures of enjoying the countryside, then I would think you are from the 'everything has a price' school of thought, whereas I would prefer to think that some things just have a 'value' to society, and if they don't cost much why do away with the pleasure they give us all. It's a sort of spiritual quality of life thing really.

Glyn Davies said...

I would support resticting the sale to chartable/community bodies of the Heritage Forest (Forest of Dean, New Forest etc.). That is what the Government has proposed.

I also support the long lease of commercial forest to commercial operators with conditions that increase access arrangements from the current position. That's also what is proposed.

For many years the UK Government has sold some commercial forest (to raise funds) - and nothing wrong with that. The Forestry Commission is a big operator in the commercial market (which it also regulates). The Coalition Government has now announced (11/2/11) that this process will stop and the forest proposed for sale will end and brought within the ambit of the leasing arrangements.