Shameful sell-out of woodland heritage

At a time when we are being told by the Coalition Government that we have to bear cuts in public services for financial reasons, we are appalled by the haste in which they are seeking powers to sell off 258,000 hectares of state owned forest & woodland managed on our behalf by the Forestry Commission.

Whilst they have announced a 3 month consultation on the proposals, they have at the same time announced a reduction of 400 in Forestry Commission jobs.

This despite the embarrassment of a joint DEFRA/Forestry Commission Report published last week, that indicates that the sell off will cost the Government £24 million over the next 20 years with lost income from recreational facilities and the sale of timber more than offsetting any funds received from the proposed sales.

The proposals appear to offer little in the way of protection of rights of way & usage for all the people who use and value our woodlands. Local Forestry Commission woodland includes Beckley Wood, Bedgebury Pinetum and Battle Woods.

Under increasing pressure, the Prime Minister has indicated that voluntary groups such as the Woodland Trust would make a better job of managing these woodlands than the Forestry Commission.

But there are no guarantees that such groups will be offered ownership and I quote from Woodland Trust’s own website “we have real concerns for wildlife and for people about the fallout from a substantially accelerated disposal programme of public forest land of value”.

In reality, is this blind Tory dogma, seeking to reduce the size of the state irrespective of the consequences and damage done on the way?

An administration that, to use Oscar Wilde’s description of a cynic, knows “the cost of everything and the value of nothing”.

Our local MP, who claims to represent rural interests, has supported the Government proposals to date.

We urge everybody who values our woodlands to lobby her to oppose this potential tragedy for all of us and future generations.

Nick Warren

Rye Labour Party