The woodlands of Great Britain, some of them anyway, have been given a reprieve. They will for at least a few years be allowed to live and grow without the invasion of business parks or the ubiquitous tracts of housing developments and commercial enterprises. The reprieve comes as a result of many voices raised in protest against the government’s scheme to raise some money by selling off 15% of its protected forest land.
Amongst the designated forests are Friston Forest and Abbott’s Wood, both in Sussex county and cherished by residents and visitors alike as the natural wonders they are. Caroline Spelman, the environment secretary, announced early this month that plans to sell the forest estates have been scrapped, for now at least.
The decision came after a report by an independent panel of conservation experts as well as forestry and rural business representatives concluded that the forests provide sufficient value for money to make preserving them for posterity a more sensible course of action than selling them off to developers. That and the fact that over half a million people signed petitions arguing against the proposed sale convinced the panel that selling more of Britain’s forest land is not the way to go.
The panel’s chairman was the bishop of Liverpool, James Jones. He made some telling remarks about the value of woodlands, saying that sustainably managed woodlands offer “untapped potential” for benefits including but not limited to creation of jobs and improving the health and well being of the general population.
Jones also said that the way things stand now is a “contradiction in terms”, with the Forestry Commission obliged to sell many of its own assets in order to maintain the rest. The panel called for a ‘new model’ in forestry management that would make the best use of government funding as well as drawing on private financing for support.