Lib Dems nervy over forest plans

Govt plans new approach to England's forests
Govt plans new approach to England's forests

By Alex Stevenson

Nine Liberal Democrat MPs have called on the coalition to "reconsider" its plans to sell off the country's forests.

In the first signs of dissent on the government's backbenches, a Commons motion tabled by Lib Dem Greg Mulholland expressed concern that a planned consultation would be "genuine".

The early day motion highlights widespread concerns about plans to privatise England's public forest estate, focusing on worries about access, continuing biodiversity and the length of leases.


"There is huge public concern about the government's proposals regarding the future of public forestry and the government has to accept that it hasn't convinced the public," Mr Mulholland said.

"The government needs to be prepared to have another look at this issue and ensure it comes back with plans that not only guarantee public access to our forests and woodlands but also have the public's backing.

"I will be working with government backbenchers with both sides to press them to do this."

Eight other Lib Dems have joined Mr Mulholland in signing the Commons motion, including the party's president Tim Farron and culture specialist Don Foster.

They are also backed by two Conservatives, Peter Bottomley and Julian Lewis, as well as Green MP Caroline Lucas and Labour's Keith Vaz.

The MPs feel the "rationale of proposed sales is not clear to people" because the amount of revenue generated is likely to exceed the projected costs of such changes.

Ministers have not communicated their proposals well, they add.

The motion concludes with the hope that "the consultation will determine the final outcome to ensure a long-term, sustainable future for the forests and woodlands of England that guarantees public access and the opportunity for people to enjoy them".

The Forestry Commission's public consultation outlines plans for a "mixed-model approach" with the aim of creating "a far greater role for civil society, businesses and individuals".

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