Threat to Forestry Rallying?

Rallying in England and Wales could face a dramatic change if government proposals to sell off forests and woodlands to large landowners, housing developers and international power companies come to fruition. In what could be the UK's greatest change of land ownership since the second world war, the plan would see 600,000 acres or one third of the 1.8 million acres currently held by the Forestry Commission put up for sale.

The environment secretary, Caroline Spelman is expected to announce a new strategy that will lay the foundations for more than 150,000 hectares of forest and other land owned by the state in England to be sold within three years. Whitehall sources confirmed that privatisation would be an element of the plan, which is due to be announced within days, but said it will not be a complete sell-off of forestry land.

The part-privatisation of the biggest landowner in England could raise around 250m but charities and ecologists warn that it could set back countryside protection and the restoration of ancient woodlands by many years if industry is allowed to cherry-pick the most profitable land and cut off funds used for conservation.

26th October, 2010