A well-attended meeting at the end of January agreed to launch a campaign to stop parts of Sherwood Forest being sold off. The main local threat is to Sherwood Pines (between Rufford Abbey and Clipstone). This is an area of woodland, largely replanted in the past with conifers, which should be returned to indigenous broad leaf trees.
The main threat to woodland in England is in a Public Bodies Bill which, amongst other things, allows Secretary of State Caroline Spelman to sell off all Forestry Commission land, including Sherwood Pines. She has now launched a consultation – after the legislation was introduced to the House of Lords. So there is no intention to compromise on the fundamental right of the government to sell off all publicly owned forests. The consultation is only on how it is sold off, not whether it is sold off.
Opposition has come from two main directions:
- The Woodland Trust wants to see the ‘ancient woodland’ status of areas like Sherwood Forest restored. The Forestry Commission had agreed to do this over time as areas of timber are felled and replanted. But there is no commitment in the Public Bodies Bill to ensure this. (There is a petition on their website.)
- Ramblers and others are concerned that access to woodland will be restricted. This is not just a case of permitting access in the sense that most people can climb over a fence. The Forestry Commission has been making woodland much more generally accessible. Sherwood Pines has a visitor centre, cycle hire and maintained paths. (See website.) But for how much longer?
Sherwood Pines has not even been listed in the government’s consultation as ‘heritage’ woodland that could be handed over to a charitable trust. Even if it was, the government would require such trusts to become self-financing.
Hundreds of thousands of people have signed a petition at:http://www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-forests
Details of the government’s consultation are at:http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/01/27/englands-forests/
Nottingham Post articles on this issue, 3 Feb 2011:
- http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/news/Abbey-changes-betrayal/article-3176984-detail/article.html (3rd letter down)