This Thursday I’ll be attending my second meeting of the Independent Panel on Forestry, set up by Secretary of State Caroline Spelman following the public outcry over the consultation on the future management of the Public Forest Estate. In advance of this, the Forest Access User Group (made up of nine outdoor enthusiast organisations like the Ramblers, the Kennel Club, CTC, the British Horse Society, and the British Mountaineering Council) has issued a statement to the Chair of the Panel, Bishop of Liverpool James Jones, expressing its concerns and hopes for the future of public access to all our forests and woodland.
The Group is calling on the Independent Panel to ensure that ‘access is at the heart’ of its discussions concerning the future of our forests. The Group expects to meet all members of the Panel to express first-hand the value of our woods and forests for public enjoyment.
I’m really pleased that these different organisations have come together on this issue, to speak with a single voice. They represent millions of regular users of woods and forests who care passionately about this public amenity. The public make an astonishing 40 million visits a year to the Forestry Commission Estate, making the Commission the single largest provider of countryside recreation opportunities. The remit of the panel is not just Forestry Commission land, of course, but overall forestry and woodland policy. Just 18% of England’s woodland and forests are part of the Public Forest Estate, although that accounts for 44% of accessible woodland. We’ll also need to consider access to the other 82% of woods and forests.
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