Forestry Statement

George's statement on the recent forestry announcement.

“Just like many of you, I thoroughly enjoy visiting Thetford forest with my family and believe that our forests are a national treasure. I am adamantly and categorically against any restriction of access or reduction in size of our forests. Indeed, throughout these proposals, I have been uncompromising in these principles and have voiced your concerns with a number of my Parliamentary colleagues.

“The thought process behind the Government’s recent ideas has been to implement a better way of managing our forests in order to increase access, biodiversity and investment in our forests. Indeed the Coalition went to great lengths, even at this early stage to build in safeguards that once the forests were removed from the management of the Forestry Commission, they could not be felled by private contractors, or simply closed to the public. The Government knew this was imperative, due to the trouble the previous Government encountered when it sold huge swathes of our forests without these kinds of protections.

“As a first step in this progress, the Government published a consultation paper setting out their aims in attracting better managerial expertise and investment to our forests. This consultation was open to everyone, and the Government received an astounding number of responses from experts in the field, to concerned members of the public. They were asked to comment on how best to improve our forests and to safeguard them for future generations to enjoy.

“While the consultation was widely reported, a number of key points which were pivotal to these proposals have been misrepresented. For instance, tree felling would have continued to be controlled by the Forestry Commission, public rights and access would have been maintained and safeguarded and existing protection for wildlife would have continued to have been enforced.

“Nonetheless, as you may have heard, on the 17th of February the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced that, after having listened to the public’s overwhelming response to the consultation, the Government would halt all planned sales of Forestry Commission land and that in light of this, the consultation itself was redundant and therefore has been disbanded. For further information on this announcement please visit the Defra website at http://ww2.defra.gov.uk/news/2011/02/17/futureforestry/.

“I hope you will agree with me this chain of events represents a step change from the Brownite bulldozer approach to Government policy, and that in actual fact this Government is listening to the views of those who elected it to office. I trust that this is but the first of many public consultations to come where the public’s views and concerns are genuinely listened to, and the outcome of the consultation was not preordained before ever having heard any opinions.

“It is only through this kind of approach to governing, where citizen’s are put in the driving seat, and Government isn’t afraid to admit when it has got it wrong, or to consult, and actually listen to, those it represents, that we can start to rebuild our trust in politics that has been lost over the past decade.”