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The society has published a set of vital safeguards for the public forest estate in England, ahead of the opposition debate on forests in the House of Commons on Wednesday (2 February).
We have written to MPs urging them to advocate these safeguards in the debate.
All these safeguards must be satisfied before the sale of Forestry Commission woods and forests happen.
All land should be offered first to a charity or community group, together with the guarantee of sufficient funds for that organisation and its successors to manage it in perpetuity, for its access, biodiversity and landscape qualities.
Before any Forestry Commission land is sold, the prospective purchaser must sign an agreement, legally-binding in perpetuity, to
1. retain and manage the land as woodland and not allow it to be developed for any other purpose,
2. where there are legal rights of access, maintain and increase these, adding rights for riders and cyclists wherever appropriate,
3. where there are no legal rights of access, dedicate the land so that there are permanent rights of access throughout the wood or forest for walkers, riders and cyclists,
4. welcome informal access, free of charge, at all times.
Says our general secretary, Kate Ashbrook: ‘These are tough tests, but they are absolutely essential if our forests and woodlands are to continue to provide inspiration, refreshment and recreation for the public, as well being a vital component of the landscape and habitat for wildlife. Nothing less is acceptable.’