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"Forests should remain public" - Farron welcomes progress report on Britain's forests

December 9, 2011 9:16 AM

TF KendalLocal MP Tim Farron has today welcomed the views expressed in the progress report of the Independent Panel on Forestry, which notes the enormous social benefits gained from woodland and stresses that forests are best preserved by keeping them in public ownership.

The panel, set up in February in the wake of widespread public concern at Government plans to sell off state-owned forests to the private sector, is due to issue its final report in April 2012. Its interim report comments that the £20 million cost involved in maintaining the forests is greatly outweighed by their benefits to society, estimated at £1 billion-£2 billion per year, and called for the politics to be taken out of the debate. The proposals to sell off the forests came from DEFRA and opposition to those proposals were led by Tim Farron on the government benches.

Over 42,000 people have responded to a call for evidence to the panel, which has been tasked with reviewing the future of and potential government policy towards not merely the 18% forests that are publicly-owned but all woodland in Britain, so that it delivers more for the environment, society and the economy.

Commenting Tim said: "As the extraordinarily high number of responses to this consultation shows, keeping woodland open and accessible matters hugely to people all across the country and demonstrates their unabashed affection for Britain's countryside. But it is important also that we as a nation preserve sustainable sources of timber and increase biodiversity.

"It is vital that any future plans for our forests, such as Grizedale in the Lake District, are put together very carefully. I've been pushing this issue hard with ministers for many months and I will continue to do all I can in Parliament to keep our woodland safe from the profiteering of private-sector investors."