Just had this from my MP - sounds like he believes the access issues but wants rid of the FC:
Thank you for getting in touch with me about forestry. I share your concerns that public access, leisure activities, conservation and biodiversity should be protected and promoted. The Labour government’s scheme, under which 20,000 acres of public forest were sold, did not have adequate safeguards for these important concerns and led to a loss of access in some forests. I did not vote in support of the Coalition Government’s proposals in the recent debate because I wanted greater assurance that the safeguards now proposed will be effectively enforceable and will apply to land sales already planned. (In future the Government intends to sell only leases, not the freehold of the land, which makes enforcement of access conditions easier and more certain.) I will be watching the legislation carefully when it comes before the Commons to see that these issues are effectively dealt with.
Most of the forest areas in my constituency have always been privately owned and managed, but in Northumberland as a whole there is a very large Forestry Commission estate. The forests, both public and private, provide jobs in the timber trade and popular access for leisure which also helps to support the tourist industry. In some parts of the country, such as the New Forest, most of the forest area is ancient woodland which could be at least as well – or better – protected if it was in the ownership of charitable or community trusts. There are smaller areas in Northumberland to which this might apply. I do not see any compelling reason why, so long as access and diversity are protected, commercial forest areas have to be kept in the ownership of a loss-making nationalised industry which was created to meet very different circumstances at the end of the First World War. In Northumberland, the Commission’s decision to plant large areas of our hills with regimented conifer plantations was originally very controversial. In recent years the Commission has done more to promote the planting of broadleaved native species.
The Forestry Commission now has a vital regulatory role, and I want to see its expertise retained for the benefit of the whole of the forestry industry and the public who value it highly.
The Government’s proposals are the subject of a consultation, and I hope that when you have had a chance to study them in more detail you will respond to the consultation at http://www.defra.gov.uk/corporate.consult/index.htm.
With thanks for letting me know your views.
Sir Alan Beith, M.P.