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articles > 2011

Press Release - 20th January 2011
The Wainwright Society response to Government plans to sell off parts of the
Forestry Commission's Estate in The Lake District

The Wainwright Society condemns Government plans to sell off parts of the
Forestry Commission's Estate because of the impact the sales will have on
public access, landscape quality and bio-diversity.

More than thirty years ago Alfred Wainwright criticised the Forestry
Commission because of its blanket afforestation of the Ennerdale valley in
the western Lake District.  His attack helped to change Commission policy.
In the intervening years the Commission has actively promoted greater public
access in mixed forests where a proportion of broadleaved trees are planted
to encourage bio-diversity.  In Ennerdale, the Sitka spruce forests have
been felled and the valley is being returned to its wild state.  Elsewhere,
at Whinlatter and on The Dodd, mixed age and species plantings have softened
the impact of commercial afforestation on Lake District landscapes.

The Chairman of the Wainwright Society, Eric Robson, comments,
'If the sales go ahead we'll be turning the clock back to the bad old days.
We're being told by Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, that these
sales will encourage a radical new approach to forestry management and will
embrace the concept of localism.  In fact, this is a sale being driven by
Treasury policy aimed at maximising the returns from the Forestry Commission
sale.  The fear is that rules on access and environmental protection will be
waived or, at best, lightly applied to encourage the private sector to offer
the best price.  This could lead to a return to mono-culture plantings and
severely restricted access for groups such as walkers, mountain bikers and
horse riders.

Still more worrying is that, at present, the Government is limited in how
much of the Forestry Commission it can sell, but clauses buried in a piece
of legislation soon to be considered by the House of Lords, The Public
Bodies Reform Bill, would allow them to sell off all of the Commission's
holdings.  Huge tracts of the uplands could then be transferred to the
private sector with little or no thought for the impact that would have on
tourism, public access or the environment.'

Derek Cockell
Press & Publicity Officer - The Wainwright Society