Monday, 4 February 2013

'No sell-off' for public forests

The government has announced that it will not sell off publicly owned forests in England.

It says it will create a new public body that will hold in trust the nation's forests for future generations.

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson was responding to a report that called the estate a "national asset" that should not be sold off.

He also announced that the policy of selling off 15% of the estate to cover costs would be rescinded.

Mr Paterson gave few details of the new, independent body that would own, maintain and safeguard the public forest estate except that it would be set up in the longer term.

"The new body will have greater independence from Government and greater freedom to manage its resources and maximise its income but with the right safeguards in place to operate for the long-term benefit of people, nature and the economy," he said.

The Independent Panel on Forestry (IPF) was established in March 2011 after a ministerial U-turn on plans to dispose of a chunk of its woodlands.

The Rt Rev James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool and who chaired the Panel, welcomed the government's response saying it was an "unequivocal endorsement" of the IPF's recommendations.

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