Rendlesham: Forest campaigners seek long-term guarantees

VISITORS to Rendlesham Forest have lent support to a campaign for the long-term security of the region’s public woodland.

Members of the Save Sandlings Forests group attached more than 50 signatures to a letter addressed to environment and forestry ministers, and nearly 30 additional comments about how visitors value and use the area.

The campaign was set up in response to Government proposals to transfer 258,000 hectares of Public Forest Estate into private ownership.

Public outcry led to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman’s decision to put the sale on hold and appoint a panel of independent advisers to make recommendations on the future of forestry.

But campaigners continue to push for assurances that Rendlesham Forest and Suffolk’s Sandlings Forest estate, which also includes Dunwich and Tunstall, are retained and managed by a “properly resourced” Forestry Commission.

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The campaign collected the opinions of visitors at the end of last month and will now send its conclusions to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for consideration before the Government is expected to present a full response to the independents panel’s report early next year.

The standard letter to ministers welcomes the retention of publicly-owned forests, but asks for assurances that the Forestry Commission will be properly funded to at least current levels.

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Many of those canvassed on the day came from nearby towns and included Jothi and Lucy Barnsley-Sadasivan, who were visiting from Martlesham with their three children, Sidney, Jonas and Nico, and said: “With three very active boys the forest provides the perfect environment to unwind and connect with nature and a safe place for the whole family and friends. Long live the forest!”

The Government is set to announce its a response to the independent forestry panel’s report in early 2013 but has already revealed it will accept the recommendation not to sell off woodland.

The panel visited several forests before publishing an interim report in December 2011 and a final report this summer.

It followed a 500,000 signature online petition to keep forests in public hands.

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