The Independent Panel on Forestry has said it is “regrettable” that the government failed to propose adequate legislation to protect English public forests during last week’s Queen’s speech.
The panel, created after a public outcry on the proposal to sell the public forest estate in 2011, said in a letter, “Following the Queen’s speech it is highly regrettable that nearly two years after the Independent Panel on Forests published its unanimous report the government has failed to bring forward legislation to protect the public forest estate.
“The fierce public debate prompted by the government’s intentions for the future of the public forest estate demonstrated how important our forests are to the nation.”
It continued, “The Independent Panel now urges the government and all political parties to make a manifesto commitment to legislate as soon as possible after the general election so that the future of our public forests is assured, protecting and developing the social, environmental and economic benefits of forests.”
The panel had previously advised the government to keep forests in the public’s hands and suggested the creation of a new body to oversee it. It estimated that managing public forests costs £20m a year but paid back around £400m in natural, social and economic benefits.
Beccy Speight, CEO of the Woodland Trust, added, “By prioritising the infrastructure bill, the government has further weakened the ability of people to protect their local environment and, coupled with concessions on zero-carbon homes, it seems utterly uninterested in rescuing any environmental credentials it once claimed to have.”
Photo: Monika via flickr