CAMPAIGNERS leading the charge to preserve the nation’s woodland - including Sherwood Forest - believe they are ‘winning the battle’.
Their confident stance comes after the independent panel reviewing the Government’s proposal to sell-off 258,000 hectares of woodland recommended the forests were re-valued.
The report, compiled over the past 15 months, calls for a revival of a woodland culture that appreciates how important trees are for people, for nature and the economy.
It was ordered by Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman in February 2011 when she admitted the Government had ‘got it wrong’ in its attempts to cash in on the woodland, following an overwhelming public backlash to its initial plans.
Founder member of campaign group Save Sherwood Forest Paddy Tipping welcomed the panel’s findings.
“Clearly we are really pleased with the outcome following a strong local campaign to save Sherwood Forest and its neighbouring woodlands,” he said.
“The woodlands are a public asset. We should not be selling it off - we should be investing in its future.”
“It’s a big step in the right direction and we are confident the forest will remain in the hands of the public.”
The Government will now consult further on the recommendations of the panel and are expected to deliver a decision later this year.
Our Forests coordinator Robin Maynard warned the campaign has only just begun.
“It is particularly welcome to see our number one demand endorsed by the panel – namely, full and lasting protection for our public woods and forests – in their proposal that the public forest estate be held in trust for the nation under a new public Charter,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the panel members, The Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, said the forest can offer solutions to some of the most ‘pressing challenges facing society’.
“There is untapped potential within England’s woodlands to create jobs, to sustain skills and livelihoods, to improve the health and wellbeing of people and to provide better and more connected places for nature,” he added.
Responding to the report, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: “Our forests will stay in public hands. We will not sell the public forest estate.”
“We’ll be talking to all those who are passionate about our forests to decide how we will manage our forests for the future,” she added.