The Ramblers remains concerned that proposals for the sale of Forestry Commission land will lead to a reduction in public access.
Today’s proposals will largely protect access to heritage woodland such as the New Forest and the Forest of Dean, and even large commercial woodland like Kielder Forest in Northumberland. But there is a big BUT. Roughly 50% of the Forestry Commission estate currently falls into neither ‘heritage’ nor ‘large commercial’ categories, and this half could end up for sale on the open market with no guarantees that current access will be maintained. Guarantees have not been given that the good quality access provided by the Forestry Commission will be maintained for all woodland, and the government has also shown that it is firmly against dedicating any further land to full public access. Far from protecting and enhancing access, the current proposals don’t meet the Ramblers key tests for maintaining public access to Britain’s woodlands.
We believe that if the government can’t promise to guarantee current levels of public access, then Forestry Commission land shouldn’t be sold. There are some positives in the proposals, including protection of access to Heritage and community forests such as the Forest of Dean, but there are also a lot of grey areas which are likely to lead to a reduction in public access. With 50% of all Forestry Commission land falling outside of the categorisation of heritage and community woodland or large commercial forests, we could see access to half of the Forestry Commission estate seriously reduced in the next few years. We are urging members (and members of the public) to get involved with the consultation and tell the government how important it is to be able to access and enjoy your local woodland, regardless of its classification.
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The Ramblers’ Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799) and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492). Registered office: 2nd floor, Camelford House, 87-90 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TW.
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