Save our trees

 

            I like trees. They are an important part of our landscape, especially the native deciduous varieties. They may shed their leaves, causing trouble to the nationalised railway, but they are at their most magnificent in the autumn when they change colour.

           I look out at home at trees in my neighbours’ gardens. I suspect my neighbours like trees as well. I have never had any trouble with a neighbour wanting to cut them down. I now discover that these trees, shock horror, are private sector trees. Private sector trees, according to all so many active campaigners, are not the same as public sector trees. They are either not so attractive, or they will be cut down as soon as possible to be replaced by an office block.

         The misleading  and over the top campaign against the sale  of some  Forestry Commission land reflects the worst of UK public sector debate. Some run pictures of heritage woodlands that are in the public sector, and imply these are threatened with closure to the public or with development. The only problem with all this propaganda is the government has stated very clearly that no heritage woodland will be sold. The government is not trying to get money for the bits of the  New Forest or the Forest of Dean that the state does still own.

         The campaigners do not put up pictures of the plantations of conifers which make up an important part of the Forestry Commission land which the state might sell. Nor do they point out that the government is only proposing to sell a long lease, so the private sector can farm these trees more efficiently and supply the state with much needed cash in the meantime.

           Nor do they point out that where the public currently has rights of access and enjoyment of the farmed forest in state hands, all such rights will continue as part of the private sector’s contract. They suggest the private contractors might prefer to grow houses or offices instead of trees, without ever pausing to answer the question why would local Councils suddenly grant planning permission for such activity? The sales of leases do not come with revised planning permissions. And why should someone want to develop, if the state gets it all back at the end of the lease period for nothing?

             The only trees that have been cut down or threatened in my locality have not been destroyed by private sector demand. They were parts of a woodland owned by the National trust, where the owners decided they did not  like the trees and wanted a different landscape, or a beautiful old oak  tree that stood in the way of a highway  development the Council wished to push through. The nationalised railway has also done its bit by hacking back natural growth along the railway line.

               Campaigners should try reading the facts before they launch their campaigns. The Coalition proposals on the Forestry Commission are very mild and sensible. Private sector trees can be just as attractive as public sector ones.  You can walk through private sector woods on public footpaths and bridleways, just as much as through public sector woods.

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65 Comments

  1. lifelogic
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I agree get the forests sold off and away from the dead hand of the state. Anything Jonathan Porritt is against (like nuclear) is probably a good idea as has been proved time and again.

    The councils have however, as with so many other things, made trees into a huge job creation scheme for the state sector and often force people to live in the dark all summer by preventing some trees being removed – they are only trees after all.

    Incidentally forests do not really take much CO2 out of the atmosphere as the decaying wood, vegetation, insects and animals within a forest give off roughly the same CO2 as the trees are absorbing.

    I like trees too (in the right place) just try looking at all the insect life on them with a jewellers magnifying glass for an hour or two. It is totally fascinating to see how evolution actually works and how brutal and competitive it is (something the Tories could perhaps learn from too and perhaps stop trying to legislate that men and women are identical (even a thousand laws won’t make it so).

    It is encouraging that you say Cameron tried to delay Lisbon (back door EU constitution) coming in to law. I still do not see the logic for him not having a referendum now anyway even if just to show what the people think of it and strengthen his hand. Perhaps he has another plan to restore UK democracy and growth if so what is it?

    Also of much concern is that he is still pushing through many anti business measures and regulations in employment regulations/tax and has failed to cut regulation or the size of the state sector.

    Does he want any real growth or not or should good people just all leave now?

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Also legislation to say old people are the same as young is equally mad
      and counter productive. Employers do not care who it is if they do the job well.
      Be they old/young/man/woman machine or robot. Robots and machines do have the advantage that you can sack them rather more easily though.

      • BobE
        Posted January 28, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Mr Lifelogic, Old employees are only viable if the job requires no training. An employer will much prefer a younger person(under 50) if they will have to invest in training. Certainly with private sector nursing they much prefer to train up younger workers, why spend money only to have the person retire after a few years.
        Bob, Region 6, EUSSR.

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 29, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

          I agree extensive long term training is clearly not cost effective for the elderly (or the young unless they stay in the job) but the law will make you do it anyway no doubt. Making the UK even less competitive again in world markets.

  2. Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Fair enough… except that you haven’t addressed why only England’s trees should be sold to help alleviate the deficit for the whole of the UK whilst those in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are left alone for the sole benefit of their respective nations.

    If the British Government wants to sell off some of the “family silver” then it should be all members of the family that contribute, not just England.

    It’s about time that the primary “Unionist” party realises that a “Union” that only acts against the interest of the biggest partner won’t survive.

    There’s a golden opportunity arising to fix Labour’s constitutional vandalism by turning a reformed elected House of Lords into a UK Senate whilst allowing the House of Commons to revert to its original role as the English Parliament, and restoring political equality to all UK citizens.

    The deficit isn’t the only problem that Labour has bequeathed us.

    • Stephen Gash
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Good point. What exactly is Scotland selling to to help pay off the United Kingdom’s debt that arguably was caused by Scottish bankers and Scottish Ministers of the UK?

      Danny Alexander campaigned against the SNP’s proposed sell-off of Scotland’s forests, that would have benefitted Scotland only, but is instrumental in selling off England’s which ultimately will benefit Scotland.

      This smacks of blatant hypocrisy considering Alexander is a Scot representing a Scottish constituency.

    • Ian Campbell
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Yes, conifers do not figure hugely in the save our forests campaign. Not so long ago the Forestry Commission was criticised for its conifer afforestations in Scotland, where bare landscapes disappeared under uniform plantations. Now some broadleaf is mixed in but commercial forests are clearly not part of our ‘heritage’. Lots of ancient woodland has already been destroyed – to make way for houses. Maybe there could be some housing among parts of the commercial forests?

  3. Stewart Knight
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Well probably the most vociferous of those ranting voices with massive headlines has been the BBC.

    When is Cameron going to tell us it is being privatised? Amongst dozens of other issues he should enact and hasn’t yet, like curbing union power by paying for the Labour party massive donations?

    We can’t blame the media completely for the failings of Cameron and Coalition to get the message across, and they do have tools at their disposal to force the media to be balanced and should use them. Blair did use the tools at his disposal, perhaps dishonestly, but he used them, like forcing the HoL to the will of Parliament.

    Cameron is in danger of being seen as a damp squib…the UK’s Jimmy Carter.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      I agree the BBC is always the voice of opposition and irrational emotion on these issues. Cameron needs to make the case that selling them off is better for all. And access can be protected anyway – he should say so. He could also make the moral case for less regulation lower taxes and smaller government while he is at it.

    • Stephen Gash
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      The BBC? Why not privatise it?

      Unemployed people are compelled to pay the BBC’s licence fee or give up their TVs. They may prefer to take Ian Duncan-Smith’s advice and use the £145 for bus fairs to look for work, but they would then have to forego free to view services like ITV. This is amoral.

      Similarly, small business owners might want to put the £145 into their beleaguered pensions, but if they did so would also have to give up their TV. So they are compelled to subsidise the BBC pension scheme.

      There are those who may prefer a subscription-only service to BBC, but cannot afford both. So, they are compelled to pay for a service they do not want and be denied a service they want.

      The BBC should be subscription only so that viewers are not then forced to subsidise the BBC’s self-confessed “massive left wing bias”.

      If the coalition can sell off Royal Mail to foreigners, it can also sell the BBC to foreigners. Given the choice I would keep the Royal Mail.

      • Bob
        Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        What a good idea – sell the BBC, it must be worth a fortune.
        Then we can keep the English forests!

  4. Javelin
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Let’s wait and watch for loop holes in the bill. I think the question is why would people want to spend money on forests unless they can make a profit?

    • Aaron D Highside
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      “Campaigners should try reading the facts before they launch their campaigns.”

      Sitka spruce plantations are only there to make money. Forestry is farming.

      The New Forest, Forest of Dean etc. are heritage sites and easy to protect. Such simple truths do not suit the BBC/Guardian agenda.

    • Ken Hall
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      It should be easy to make a profit from conservation and tourism, lots of private companies do. Privatising these forests in the right way means that they will be preserved and looked after efficiently and properly for future generations to enjoy.

      • Rhys Williams
        Posted February 3, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        I agree with your point of view Ken, and i have fears that community or civil society groups may not possess the correct management skills to do what is best for the future of our forests. However the current proposals don’t do enough to protect the public access of these areas in the future. the premise of simply maintaining current levels of access is not enough, several growth sports/pastimes have been very successful in recent years due to the support of groups like the forestry commission and it is this support which is not being protected for the future. the access is the issue in this matter, not the ridiculous idea of the replacement of forests with office blocks that John put forward in his blog post. It felt very much like a blustering smokescreen to avoid addressing the real reason that so many people are opposed to the plans. the correct amendments would easily sway public opinion.

        Reply: MInisters have promised to protect all these uses of the forest.

  5. norman
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    The problem is that the leadership have taken the view that to ever have a Conservative government again we must deconaminate the brand and they have made no secret of this. What this means in reality is that whenever a decision such as this (anything with the word ‘privatisation’ attached immediately qualifies as contaminated goods) has to be taken pressure groups now know they just need to give a few scare stories to sympathetic media sources and the government will back down.

    As we are seeing with the so-called cuts minority opinion will win out against the majority.

  6. Alte Fritz
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Well said. This has little to do with trees and all to do with another attack on the Coalition. Last night’s news did, in fact, show dreary conifers planted in the Lake District, and paths infested by mountain bikers. The former a blot on the landscape and the latter a danger to life and limb.

    The disposals appear to continue a Labour policy!

    • Rhys Williams
      Posted February 3, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      Over the past ten years with support form groups like the forestry commission, these ‘dangerous’ mountain bikers you hate so much have been able to develop several dedicated trail centres so that you won’t have share your precious walking areas with them. there is no provision in the current plans to support the further development of projects like this putting you at risk of having to spend more of your time ‘at risk’ from them. it would be interesting to know why you consider them to be such a danger to life and limb. i have participated in walking and mountain biking activities for most of my life and have never been in a situation where i have put anyone other than myself in danger. Like rock climbers, mountain bikers are aware of the inherent danger of their sport to themselves but very rarely do they put others at risk.

  7. lojolondon
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    The quoted figure is a sale price of £250m from the sale of woodland. At our current EU spend rate of £50m per day, that is equivalent to leaving the EU for a week. I still do not understand how anyone thinks we can afford to stay in the EU!

  8. Graham
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    John,

    What you say may be right but the problem is that your view depends on having trustworthy politicians who care about the general population. Apart from you there are precious few.

    These same politicians are capable of enbracing the contrary case when it suits and pushing for a drastic increase in housing, or other developments, which is almost a certainty as politicians (again) allow immigration to grow.

    No one believes that the planning process will block any future development if the political will desires change.

    Once gone they will never be returned and for sure the general public will not benefit.

    Reply: On that basis there is more likely to be development on forest land if they stay in the public sector, as then the state pockets all the development gains.

  9. Tom
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I agree there is nothing wrong with private sector trees.

    If, as seems to be the case, the Government can’t afford to spend large amounts of our money paying for the upkeep of forests that could be run at a profit, then it seem bizarre that people want to keep them in the public sector (where they are losing us money) rather than moving them to the private sector or to charities and trusts, keeping them open to the public and making them cost-neutral or profit making.

  10. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I am afraid this is yet another example of what I keep writing about this government’s failure to launch a policy. I have lost count of the number of times that the media has been filled with all the propaganda from the opponents of government policy before the policy has been explained and then rather inadequately by ministers.

  11. stred
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    We like trees too and have just bought some for our new garden, However, the trees in your neighbours garden may be about to damage your house. Anyway, this seems to be the current stance of the construction regulation industry.

    When applying for Building Regulation approval for an extension, the Council required that we identify every tree, no matter how small, within 30 metres. This took our survey into the back gardens of 10 neighbours, even across the road.
    This would be used to calculate the depth of foundations and often, in an area with shrinkable soils, this could mean 3m. However, the Council has planted large Lime trees lining the streets all over the area, where most houses have shallow footings, but fortunately there are few if any problems with settlement.

    When I discussed the overreaction with our structural engineer he said that they do this sort of survey all the time. It is a major work generator for regulators, engineers, soil testing companies and lawyers. I solved our problem by getting BR. exemption for the conservatory and cantilevering the first floor from the existing house. Otherwise, the project would have been too expensive.

    But, if you live in a area with clay soils and want to build an extension, beware of trees and lawyers.

    In the countryside, trees are wonderful in our landscape. But sometimes they can be too extensive. When driving the Skyline Drive through the Virginian mountains I could see nothing but trees trees and more trees. If we all became vegetarian and there were no sheep to mow the uplands, trees would take over and the hills and views would be a thing of the past.

  12. Nigell
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Spot on again JR but the problem is that the Tories have no ‘big beast’ communicators. Cameron lacks any real believable presence and Osborne is weak, even on his own subject. To blame snow for the economic downturn when had criticised Labour for precisely that last year and there are far better ‘real’ reasons, was pathetic.

    Equally the mendacities spouted by them both prior to the election, makes them for me, totally unbelievable so why should I believe them on trees or any other subject?

    The saving grace for the Tories is that Balls and Milliband are engaged in the same dissembling.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      I think Cameron is a pretty good presenter/debater and Osborne is not too bad but they do need to do more on cutting regulations bank lending, cheap energy and a smaller state. True they might have been more in touch had they come from a more humble backgrounds and would not have been taken in by the nonsense green exaggerations quite so easily.

      If they do this will not need to make excuses for poor growth (such as blaming the snow). As it is, however, they had better start to think of some summer excuses too.

      • lifelogic
        Posted January 29, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        Summer excuses:

        Perhaps the sun caused the tarmac on the roads to melt in many areas causing a lot of transport difficulties for industry this quarter?

        Or blame the bankers:

        The banks are still sucking all the money back from businesses and charging an arm and a leg where they are not doing?

        This is true but has the disadvantage that this is due to a poor government bank regulation system so falls back on the government.

  13. Winston Smith
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    “Campaigners should try reading the facts before they launch their campaigns.”

    I’m getting tired of reiterating the following on blogs and at local Conservative meetings (although, I have now resigned and will not renew membership). People will never form a facts based opinion, unless you effectively communicate to them. The distorted and general lack of communication from Central Office and also many Conservative run LAs is nothing short of appalling. You cannot continue with an arrogant ‘we know best, trust us’. Without proper communication and education, others will fill the void. The opposition (the socialists) propagate their agenda through the left-leaning media, the BBC, the Unions and the education and academic establishment. The BBC controls more than half of all broadcasting the UK. You will never be able to compete with an organisation as powerful as this. However, you are in government, so do something about it.

    An episode of the supposed light entertainment programme, the One Show, this week, included a feature on the private sector ‘threat’ to woodlands. It had all the scaremongering you mention, plus a bit of Thatcher bashing and then they followed best left-wing practice by patronising the vulnerable; they featured disabled users of woodlands.

    Cameron’s main attribute, we are led to believe, is his PR skills. Well, he is failing to communicate policy and the reality of the legacy of Labour’s reign to the electorate. Still, his personal ratings are good, so he’s happy.

  14. Toby G
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I want this to be a common sense proposal, but after reading Private Eye’s article on this subject and how recent sale examples have shown stupidity by the state in giving money back to the buyers hand over fist AFTER the buyers have made money back by seeling the trees chopped down.

    buy at 60k and get a 55k grant… hmmm

    • Jacqui D
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Good point Toby.
      Also, if Forestry Commissson land is being used as a cash crop, surely it is better that the public retain the benfit, rather than Private companies and individuals?
      Biomass is being encouraged as part of ‘Green Energy’ and you can bet your bottom dollar that once in private hands the timber price will shoot up. Watch out for large tracts of forestry being bought up by Energy Companies in foreign hands to futher milk the British people in subsidising their own.
      I think Foresty Commission land should be retained purely for energy security.
      In the grand scheme of things £250 million is peanuts. I am sure the Government can find better and less controversial means.

      Reply: Timber is a global market. This small transaction will not have much impact. The figures show they are not selling freehold or for change of use.

  15. Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    I like trees too and this posting made me smile.

    I recall, years ago, the parish council in my birth village decided it had to borrow, what were for it, huge sums to buy a field adjacent to the church which had ancient castle remains. Although amounting to only a few truck loads of stones, the remains and the field were protected as an ancient monument.

    the council’s reasoning seemed to be that, if left in private ownership for a moment longer, after centuries of private ownership, somehow the castle, the field and public access would disappear.

    the council tax payers are still redeeming the debt.

  16. StrongholdBarricades
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    By freeing the trees will the coalition also be introducing a clause in the bill to ensure that people like English Heritage, and the National Trust should put poor performing farm land back into tree production and thereby stop forcing poverty situations on their tenant farmers? Then how would this play with those people who claim that this would spoil the views over the fells but refuse to pay for the maintenance of the landscape?

    As a long standing member of the Woodland Trust, I think that the national forests would be safer in the charities hands than in the control of a QUANGO

  17. Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    You make an excellent point John. Next time I see some idiot bemoaning the government’s plans for our trees I will point them in the direction of this article.

  18. Chris
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Should not a Redwood declare an interest?

  19. Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    Have a look at Matt Ridley’s Rational Optimist blog – latest article – Why nationalise our trees

  20. A.Sedgwick
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Looks like another Cameron own goal to me.

  21. Acorn
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    You have got them in a spin down here in the New Forest; even the Tory voters. The local MPs have got a private Bill scheduled to abolish National Park Authorities; a very very good idea. (The New Forest version was never required; is expensive and just adds to the plethora of quangos and quasi quangos (see: New Forest Acts), currently lording it, 13th Century style, over the New Forest).

    New Forest District Council is perfectly capable of running the New Forest on its own. So give the NF back to them; and the £4 million the NPA gets; and the £1.6 million system for paying ponies to mow the grass and the pigs to eat the acorns.

    Give the crown lands/ forests back to the little people and their elected local government. Let them decide how to manage and/or monetise it. BTW; none of this can happen till the Public Bodies Bill gets enacted. I bet Bill Cash has got at least two dozen amendments drafted already.

  22. Tiresias
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The Forestry Commission was formed to ensure that we would never run out of wooden pit props for our coal mines, or planks and shuttering for trenches in wartime. These purposes are less urgent than they once were and it is time to reconsider whether we really need a nationalised producer of pole crops.

    • Billi
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Not the old. “We won’t be fighting another war!” defence.
      We’ve fallen for that one before. By the way, where is John Nott ?

  23. Gary
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    What this does show is that the press and public have even less trust in wealthy private companies and individuals than they do in public bodies administrating the UK heritage and environment.

    • Posted January 28, 2011 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

      No it doesn’t. It just shows that some vocal members of the public, the BBC and a number of organisations opposed to this government are against the idea.

  24. rose
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    You are too generous: during my life I have seen what happened to public woodland and what to private. It seemed to me the private woodlands were full of native trees in all their beauty and glory, while the Forestry Commission land was full of boringly ranked conifers. That is generally how you could tell private from public woods. Very late in the day the FC is trying to mend its image and look after its land better, but the private woods are still much more beautiful. If a few people are rich enough to look after them for us, then so much the better.

  25. BobE
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    What happens when there is nothing left to sell?
    BobE, Region 6, EUSSR

  26. eddyh
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    If they get rid of a large part of the Forestry Comission’s responsibility will there be a corresponding reduction in the Forestry Comission’s personel and costs? I fear not.

  27. Billi
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Do you know that on the long drive up the M74 to Glasgow, an whole mountainside of tree has resently been cut down.
    That right. A whole mountainside of trees gone.

    Don’t you people care ?

    (I would have complained to the Scotish Government but the trees are being replaced with ‘Wind Turbines’.)…….(So may be it’s OK ?)

    • BobE
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

      Billi, If its managed trees, grown as a crop then its ok. They will be replanted.
      BobE, Region 6, EUSSR

    • BobE
      Posted January 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      ‘Wind Turbines’
      Vanity projects, feeding subsidys into windmills is daft.
      Why?
      Because every megawatt has to be backed up by a constant source. Which is Steam driven generation. The water boiled by Coal, Gas or Nuks.
      —-
      Imagine windmills supplying a city, the wind starts to decline, the load remains the same. The grid frequency starts to reduce, power goes up as the frequency drops away. Equipment starts to fail.
      The only way to overcome this is to switch in a steam driven generator. It takes several days to get a steam generator up to speed and so they are running all of the time.
      —-
      Wind generation is a sham project. Vanity project. Or a con to get subsidy from a stupid government.
      BobE, Region 6, EUSSR

  28. wab
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

    I take issue with a specific couple of points that you make:

    (1) “They suggest the private contractors might prefer to grow houses or offices instead of trees, without ever pausing to answer the question why would local Councils suddenly grant planning permission for such activity?”

    Well, local Councils *might* be bribed and/or happy to receive large sums of S.106 money by allowing such planning permission. If central government wants to guarantee this will never happen, then fine.

    (2) “And why should someone want to develop, if the state gets it all back at the end of the lease period for nothing?” It’s called leasehold. People pay perfectly good money for property with leasehold. Especially if the lease is “long” (as you say it will be).

  29. Steve-London
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood Sir, I can agree with you , I personally have no ideological problem with private people owning trees or land. In fact I subscribe to the idea that people look after their own property rather better than they do someone else’s.

    Thanks for stating these are only “long leases” and not a permanent sale of land.

    But I still have concerns.

    1.With the introduction of the Climate Change Bill 2008 and its CO2 reduction targets , trees (CO2 storage) have a new monetary value.
    It is my understanding that Carbon Trading , per ton of CO2, is or may in future become very profitable.
    Is this fully being taken into account with regard to the price of these long-leases ?

    2. I own my own property and in its deeds it states restrictions of use , for example I can not sell alcohol or mine on the land. There are many more restrictions mentioned , because it was always intended to be a residential property. I have friends and family who have Leases for the land their homes sit upon, they also have restrictions of use stated in their Lease agreements, because it was only ever intended for residential use.
    So my question is , what binding restrictions of use will these forest leases have in them ?

    I believe if we want to stop any emotive incorrect information becoming mainstream thinking on this issue, we need to get the real information out to the public so they themselves can correct incorrect statements when they hear them.

    Reply: As I understand it the leases will be for growing trees and harvesting timber. Any CO2 value will be reflected in bidding prices.

  30. Iain
    Posted January 28, 2011 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    The Government is going to get very little money from thisd sale. as such I get the impression its driven by the British establishmnets desire to punish English people .yet again.

    If Cameron so desperately wants £100 million, tell his to take it out of the £45o million he has handed to the EU.

  31. Posted January 28, 2011 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t followed this one much, but I grew up in the same neck of the woods as Kielder Forest (the UK’s largest timber reserves, owned by the FC). Northumbrian Water plc own Kielder Water however (the UK’s largest man-made reservoir.)

    Both the FC and NW plc encourage tourism and recreational activities at Kielder, I can’t see that changing because a private company now owns the timber. If anything, I would imagine that private companies would build more mountain biking tracks, tourist resorts, campsites and fishing facilities.

  32. Posted January 29, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    I hope the Conservative Party’s change of PR/communications management will see some changes in presentation. The Conservatives always appear to be on the defensive.

    Much of the negative coverage about forests has come from alarmist messages and misinformation from the Greens and the Labour Party which has been relayed faithfully by the BBC/Guardian.

    I honestly think it is time the Conservatives made a political issue out of the bias at the BBC. I know that this will invoke the BBC’s band of friends (Labour Party/Guardian/unions etc etc) who will be given more airtime as a result, but even this tendency should be tackled head on. The predictable moan that the BBC’s independence is being attacked should be countered by the government saying that democracy is being attacked if the majority will of Parliament is not being heard by the public. I think the Conservatives should stop being timid about getting on the wrong side of the public. This is happening already. I believe this must be tackled head on and in public.

    I also think the Speaker should look into the idea of Parliament commissioning its own media output and producing its own all-party radio and tv station. I think the remit should be for Parliament to reclaim its role as the nation’s debating chamber, rather than tv and radio studios.

    I would love to see an agreement across both Houses that MPs carry out all media activity through Parliament’s own media channels and not outside Parliament (similar to the arrangement in the 1950’s and before).

    • rose
      Posted February 2, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      Yes, we need a broadcast up-to-date version of Hansard and Dod, to pass straight to the public over the heads of the biased media.

      By the way, RT is a breath of fresh air – not because it isn’t biased, but because it doesn’t pretend otherwise. It isn’t insidious, but frankly peddles the patriotic line, which people can see a mile off. Neither does it affect facetious detachment, but takes serious questions seriously, not as cheap and vulgar entertainment.

  33. Alan Knell
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Who will buy our forests? Who has millions to put into very long term investments?
    Petro-dollared Arabs, Russian kleptocrats, Chinese bankers.
    This is a policy to sell off large tracts of our native country to unaccountable foreign plutocracies, who will have the resources to employ top lawyers to find a way through restrictions and regulations.
    And for what – £100 million? Four times that sum was nodded through parliament to increase our annual contribution to the EU.
    This is madness.

  34. alan jutson
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    Trees, yes the power of Nature.

    Bet many politicians wish they had such power.

    Nature eventually takes over everything, unless huge amounts of money, effort and time is spent on holding it back.

  35. Bill
    Posted January 29, 2011 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Yes, but there are certain things that it’s hard to quantify. Here in north east England, there are vast forests – Keilder – right up to the border.

    The Forestry Commission goes to great lengths to do good work, above and beyond simple access. Such as organising nature trails and talks for children – and adults.

    The commission provide an area for astronomical observations out of the way of light pollution and have organised nights for interested people.

    Youngsters can buy a permit for a couple of pounds to fish for wild brown trout in the hundreds of miles of streams draining from the surrounding hills.

    They do a good job; we couldn’t expect a private owner to provide the same care.

  36. grahams
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    Will the new private forests count as eligible woodlands for tax purposes? If so, I imagine they will end up being owned by tax shelter vehicles, notably to reduce people’s Inheritance Tax. Presumably this would have been factored into the Government’s financial calculations.

    • grahams
      Posted February 3, 2011 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      I followed yesterday’s forests debate via BBC Democracy Live. What a calamitous performance from the Government front bench. The SoS and the minister foolishly concentrated on attacking Labour for scaremongering and false righteousness.

      The real opposition was coming from voters, mainly in rural and suburban seats, expressed through their MPs of all parties but mainly on the Government side. Leaving aside Labour’s public good/private bad nonsense, little attempt was made to speak to the voters or to understand that, because so many promises have had to be broken, ministers have lost the benefit of the doubt in terms of trust much faster than Tony Blair.

      True, ministers did something to allay false fears. Sadly, they did not convey their positive aim, beyond the vague impression that it was an ideological public bad/private good policy left over from the fag-end of the Major government. Crucially, unless I am mistaken, there seems to be no overall gain to the the fiscal balance, partly perhaps for the tax reasons outlined above. Why not just tell the FC to step up felling of conifer plantations for the next four years?

      You and I can remember when the Forestry Commission was very unpopular, for reasons you stated. The reverse is now true. Not in the category of the National Trust or RSPB ( for all their faults of arrogance) but among the good guys.

      Ministers may have a great case for changing the status of the FC. If so, they did not make it but came across as hard-faced, almost revelling in unpopularity. In the next debate yesterday, the Economic Secretary, admittedly batting on a flat wicket, showed a different class. Not hard to see who might be going up and down come the first reshuffle.

  37. Posted January 30, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Serious question: what happens about things like parking? I sometimes visit a local Forestry Commission wood which has parking. What happens to this? What’s the incentive of a private company to maintain the car park?

    (I don’t mind if I just have to pay to park).
    Reply: I am told that the same access rights as present will be ensured by the terms of the leases sold.

  38. Simon_c
    Posted January 30, 2011 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Hi,

    I hear what you’re saying about the existing Rights of Way, but you (and the government) has said nothing about the open access and the paths and tracks that are accessible in many many forestry commission forests but which are not rights of way.

    Just look at the OS map for the local Forestry commission woodland close to me (Bramshill forest)
    http://www.bing.com/maps/?v=2&cp=51.33756789599781~-0.8915521949531446&lvl=15&dir=0&sty=s&eo=0&where1=Eversley%2C%20Hants&q=Eversley
    the number of RoW compared to the number of tracks and paths should speak volumes as to why the campaigners are so concerned.

    Reply: The leases allow the government to guarantee all current access

  39. Andy
    Posted January 31, 2011 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Is is possible to find out which woodlands might be sold in this sell off.

    Reply: non heritage forests.

  40. David in Kent
    Posted February 1, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Great to see some support from you for the privatisation of the Forestry Commission. The FC served a purpose after WW1 when the country needed to get new forests up quickly but ecologically it has been a disaster and actually the pit props it grew were not so much needed by the time they were ready. It will be good to see what private owners can do.

  41. rose
    Posted February 2, 2011 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

    Why isn’t everyone getting hysterical about farmland and gardens being owned privately? How good is municipal gardening now? How good was it ever, compared to, say, the NT?

  42. Posted February 3, 2011 at 11:44 pm | Permalink

    “Nor do they point out that where the public currently has rights of access and enjoyment of the farmed forest in state hands, all such rights will continue as part of the private sector’s contract.”

    John,

    I have no problem with most of what you say, but I need to question the statement above because the implication is that ramblers, cyclists and horsey-types will all be able to continue as they do now after the change.

    However, I am led to believe that the protection that will continue will only be an extension of existing legislation which covers ramblers only, whereas cyclists and the horsey-types have nothing more than a memorandum of understanding that free-access and use of forestry commission lands will be available.

    Speaking as a mountain biker I am keen to know whether I will be able to continue my sport in areas where, post change, ramblers still still be able to roam.

    In short; will right-to-roam legislation be updated to include cycling and horse riding, or, will the proposed lease guarantee the same freedom of access and use as the current agreements maintain?

    Reply We have been told by Ministers that they will write into the leases all current access including bikes and horses. We MPs have told them in no uncertain terms people will want maintained access of all kinds.

    • Posted February 5, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

      “Reply We have been told by Ministers that they will write into the leases all current access including bikes and horses. We MPs have told them in no uncertain terms people will want maintained access of all kinds.”

      I am very grateful for the swift response, and greatly heartened to hear that my ‘special’ interest has been accommodated.

      My thanks

      JBT

  43. Posted April 8, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    I found this article with a search on Google for “save our trees”. I am concerned about the health of our forests; I live next to Higham’s Park Forest, where I walk the dog on a daily basis and have noticed in the last six months the sudden death of numerous oak trees which appear to be rotting from the inside out the disease appears to spreading to other plants and trees rapidly, I think we are too late to stop the spread our forests are about to change forever….

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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