Controversial plans to sell off England’s public forest estate were finally abandoned by the Government today, after an expert panel called for the 637,000 acres of woodlands owned by the Forestry Commission to remain in public ownership.
The panel was hastily set up last year after the initial plan to dispose of the forests, and raise £250m, brought down an unprecedented barrage of criticism on the Government and forced the first major u-turn of the Coalition’s time in office, with the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, shelving the scheme and publicly apologising for putting it forward in the first place.
Today, barely minutes after the report was published online, Mrs Spelman announced that she accepted its main recommendation and that the idea of a sell-off, one of the first of the Tories’ ‘Big Society’ policies, had been given up for good. “Our forests will stay in public hands,” she said.
"We will not sell the public forest estate. ...