National: Government set to scrap forests sell-off

ENVIRONMENT secretary Caroline Spelman has confirmed that the Government will controversial plans to sell thousands of acres of state-owned woodland.

The current consultation is expected to be halted later this week, with a new panel of experts set to look at public access and bio-diversity within the publicly owned woodland.

The proposals to offload 258,000 hectares run by the Forestry Commission have attracted cross-party criticism and a public outcry.

The original plans posed threat to the Sandings Forests in east Suffolk - including Rendlesham Forest - and Thetford Forest, which spreads over the Suffolk-Norfolk border.

Last week, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey faced a barrage of criticism from livid forest users who viewed their concerns and angers over the controversial plans.

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Hundreds of protesters turned out in force to voice their strong opposition to the Government’s proposals, at the meeting held at Rendlesham Community Centre.

Simon Leatherdale, who is a professional forester and has also worked for the Forestry Commission for 35 years, previously branded the consultation as a “mockery”

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The plans were intended to give the private sector, community and charitable groups greater involvement in woodlands by encouraging a “mixed model” of ownership. But critics argued that it could threaten public access, bio-diversity and result in the forests being used for unsuitable purposes.

David Cameron hinted that he was backing away from the policy during prime minister’s questions.

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