I was interviewed for the BBC TV programme Newsnight to discuss the implications of the Government’s plans to dispose of the public forest estate in England.  The programme will be broadcast this evening.

Gabriel Hemery being interviewed in Hainault Forest for BBC Newsnight - January 2011

The venue for my interview was Hainault Forest in Essex.  This was an interesting choice by the BBC as the site is leased by the Woodland Trust from the London Borough of Redbridge.  The site has a brutal history as the forest land, just a tiny fragment of the once magnificent Forest of Essex, was condemned as waste by an Act of Parliament in 1851.  Both trees and deer were culled and the land divided up for building lots for an expanding London.  After a vigorous public campaign 330 hectares of land, which included 100 hectares of woodland and grassland, was bought for public use in 1906.  I walked to the forest from Hainault tube station, through the London suburbs, heading towards its distant dome of trees.  I had a short time to explore (and get briefly lost!) among the wonderful ancient oaks and pollarded hornbeams.

Listen to the 10 minute interview [mp3 format]

Note that this is my own recording and an unabridged version of the interview, which will differ from the edited version broadcast by the BBC.

BBC Newsnight debate on the sale of the public forest estateMissed it?For seven days only you can watch the TV programme
on the BBC website. Skip to 26:04 minutes to watch the forestry film.

Gabriel Hemery


  1. In case you have forgotten what you said, here it is on YouTube

    1. Author

      Imogen – sorry what point are you wanting to make exactly? I am very aware of what I said and you will have seen that I have provided online my own audio transcript of the (full unedited) interview so that once the BBC removed the film from their site it was still accessible in some form:


      In the interview I state very clearly my own view that ownership was not the main issue, but really the important issue was about how our forests are managed. I made the additional point that effectively there are a range of different private owners with different interests and some are more than capable of equalling the FC in the management standards of their forests, while I admit that they may not provide the same diversity of multi-purpose benefits. I still maintain these views. I also stated my view that some public forests could be sold if they delivered low public benefit – I still maintain this view.

      Since then of course the people of England have come out in their hundreds of thousands and stated quite clearly that they do not want the public forests, their forests, to be sold. I accept and embrace this and cannot see how it conflicts with my view, if that is what you are suggesting? Furthermore, this is why I developed with fellow Our Forest members the very clear statement on Page 8, Principle 1 of our vision:

      “The PFE needs to be dynamic and have the flexibility to take on and create new woodland closer to urban populations or for other key purposes such as flood protection. That means being able to sell woods that deliver little if any public benefit. But until the PFE is provided with stronger, lasting protection as a national resource of public woods and forests, there must be no sales.”

      So to reiterate … no sales until guarantees can be provided for full and lasting protection, and then, and only then, some forests could be considered for sale. I believe that when these forests are selected for the right reasons, then their disposal would be in the public interest, particularly (as we suggest in this quote) that their disposal may help fund the creation of forests more ‘fit for public benefit purpose’.

      I trust that this clears up any confusion.

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