‘They clearly got their plans wrong’

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Campaigners welcomed the Government’s decision to halt consultation into the future of the nation’s public forests.

Proposals to sell-off 258,000 hectares of woodland - including parts of Sherwood Forest - had been met by protest from a number of conservation groups.

Friends of Sherwood Forest meet at Sherwood Pines

Friends of Sherwood Forest meet at Sherwood Pines

The announcement has seen a u-turn in their plans, with Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman admitting “we got this one wrong”.

Regional co-ordinator for Friends of the Earth Mary Button said it was “fantastic”.

“It’s a brilliant result, they have realised the popular opposition against anything with privatising public spaces.”

“They clearly got their plans wrong. The problem is that they will still be looking to sell off Forestry Commission land, so it is important to keep the pressure up.”

“It’s turning out to be our own little revolution.”

The decision will also see the removal of powers to push forward the move from the Public Bodies Bill, currently going through Parliament.

A panel, which will include representatives of key environmental and access organisations alongside representatives of the forestry industry, will look after matters and report to the secretary in the Autumn.

It will debate on the future of the forests, such as Sherwood Pines and Birklands, where historians were eager to preserve a Viking meeting post, named Thynghowe.

And Lynda Mallett, from the Friends of Thynghowe, warned “we must not take our eye off the ball”.

She said: “Safeguarding the cultural heritage and archaeology contained within our local woodlands will still need to be part of any future discussions about forestry management.”

“Whilst access and biodiversity have been recognised as issues, the archaeology and cultural heritage of our forests seem to have been marginalised.”

Speaking in the House of Commons, the Environment Secretary said she was to announce a “more measured and rational debate” about the future direction of the forestry policy.

Ms Spelman added: “Let me make it clear that we have always placed the highest priority on preserving access and protecting our forests.”

“But the forestry clauses in the Public Bodies Bill, published well before we launched the consultation, gave the wrong impression as to the Government’s intentions.”