James Duddridge MP: “Addressing concerns”

JAMES DUDDRIDGE MP

HOUSE OF COMMONS
LONDON SW1A 0AA

Mr Denis Walker
Southend on Sea
Essex

Our ref: RSE8241

7th February 2011

Dear Mr Walker,

Thank you for contacting me and raising your concerns over the future of our forests. I would like to take this opportunity to address your concerns in light of the recent developments.

The Government has published a consultation paper which sets out a range of options for ownership and management of the forests in England, which are currently run by the Forestry Commission. The Commission is responsible for a fifth of England’s woodlands.

On Wednesday, a debate was held in the House of Commons in response to this consultation. It contained a confirmation of the Government’s position by the Minister of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Rt Hon James Paice MP, and a vote on the current position of the House on the issue. Please find a copy of this extract enclosed.

The consultation itself can be found on the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs website which is

http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/forests/index.htm

I would strongly encourage you to take part in this process.

The consultation paper guarantees protections on rights to access, our ability to take the dog for a walk, go cycling or horse riding in the woodland we know and love, and maintaining and improving biodiversity. The paper also sets out how heritage forests could be transferred to charitable trusts, while commercial land could be leased, with strict protections built into its clauses.

The Government’s key commitments in the consultation include enshrining in law that no Heritage Forests, such as the New Forest or Forest of Dean, can be sold to the private sector, offering first refusal to community groups or civil society organisations in sales of local woodland, guaranteeing access and benefits in any sales of commercial forests by only selling land on a leasehold basis, and preventing the sale of any site in which more than 10 per cent are Planted Ancient Woodlands.

The consultation has been shaped by the principle to protect and enhance biodiversity, to maintain public access for recreation and leisure for activities such as horse riding and cycling, to ensure the continuing role of the woodlands in climate change mitigation, and to protect nationally important landscapes.

Any land transferred to a new ownership or management will be subject to the same strict legal controls that are already in place including country rights of way protection, planning restrictions, wildlife conservation laws and felling licence requirements.

I hope that this response goes some way toward clarifying the situation for you. Should you require any further information or advice, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Yours sincerely.

James Duddridge MP

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