Thursday, January 31, 2013
SUFFOLK and Essex’s forests will remain in public ownership, it has been confirmed.
Speaking today, environment secretary, Owen Paterson, said that a new independent body would be set up in the longer term to hold the nation’s forests in trust for future generations.
The Forestry Commission, which currently manages the public forest estate, would be given extra funding of £3.5m this year and an additional £2m to help the authority fight Chalara dieback of ash.
Mr Paterson said: “I want to put the future of our public forests on a clear and firm footing.”
“Our forests and woodland will remain secured in public ownership for the people who enjoy them, the businesses that depend on them and the wildlife that flourishes in them.”
Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, said the annoucement follows the cutting of 500 Forestry Commission staff.
Paterson’s predecessor Caroline Spelman sparked national outrage over proposals to dispose of publicly owned woodlands to businesses, communities and charities.
An independent panel was subsequently set up to examine the future of England’s woodlands.
The panel’s said in July that the public forest estate costs the taxpayer about £20m a year – around 90p per household in England – but paid back an estimated £400m in benefits to people, nature and the economy. It also recommended that the country’s wooded area should be expanded to 15%.
Mr Paterson has said he wants to see the amount grow from 10% now to 12% in 2060.