Public Forest Estate consultationToday, Defra published the long-awaited consultation document regarding the proposed sale of the public forest estate in England.

The impact that Government aims to make to forest ownership in England relies on changes in law through new powers provided by the Public Bodies Bill.  This will allow it to revoke the restrictions on sale within the Forestry Act of 1967.  I noted that Secretary of State Caroline Spelman, suggested in her interview on BBC Newsnight on 26th January, that the Government may be prepared to redraft the relevant clauses (17 & 18) in the Public Bodies Bill if there is an overwhelming public response calling for this.

The consultation proposes a mixed-model approach to reforming the ownership and management of the public forest estate to create a far greater role for civil society, businesses and individuals.  This was the second of the five models that the Government was considering that I leaked late last year.

The consultation asks the following five key questions:

1. What do you think of our overall approach – is a mixed-model approach better than a one-size-fits all approach, and are there any other models we should be considering?
2. What do you think about charities managing heritage forests?
3. What do you think about communities having the right to buy or manage forests?
4. What do you think about leasing commercial forests?
5. What do you think about the future role of the Forestry Commission in England?

You can view all the documents Defra’s website or click on the image to go straight to the main consultation document. The public consultation closes on 21st April, and Defra anticipates the results being published sometime in Summer 2011.

Gabriel Hemery

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