It seems that the Government is poised to climb down from the sale of the public forests of England. It is not clear yet whether this means that no decision will be made about the disposal until the public consultation is over or whether this means the clauses in the Public Bodies Bill will be amended too.
Update: the above is still speculative and the Government’s position appears to be very fluid. It has become clear that they have halted the 15% sell-off of forests over the next five years (note: this is a separate sell-off to the potential complete sell-off which is the subject of the current public consultation). It became clear that selling the 15% was untenable when they have been so critical of the previous Government’s activities in selling publicly-owned woodlands without any apparent measures in place.
Today Secretary of State Caroline Spelman issued a statement:
WRITTEN MINISTERIAL STATEMENT
DEPARTMENT FOR ENVIRONMENT, FOOD AND RURAL AFFAIRS
Forestry Commission England’s 2011-12 asset sales programme.
Date: 11 February 2011
The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Caroline Spelman) As in previous years, the selection criteria for land in the Forestry Commission England’s forthcoming assets sales programme were published on 27th January. In light of the Government commitment to increase protection for access and public benefit in our woodlands, the criteria for these sales will be reviewed so that protections are significantly strengthened following the inadequate measures that were applied to sales under the previous administration. Pending this review, no individual woodland site will be put on the market.