Green Say Forest Sell Off Uneconomic and Environmental Madness

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Selling off England’s public forests could cost the nation more than it would save says Oxfordshire Green Party and would be environmental madness. Former Green Oxford City councillor Sid Phelps who was brought up in the Forest of Dean one of the forests up for sale says that new government figures issued today show clearly that the sale of the forests would cost £507.9m but yield benefits of only £495.9m.
The figures come from the government department responsible for the sale (Defra) and have proved embarrassing to the Government who want to sell off extensive area of forest land in the New Forest, the Forest of Dean and the Lake District plus a wide range of over 130 sites scattered across the country.
The Coalition Government’s own departmental impact assessment cast doubt over claims by ministers that the controversial sale would raise between £140m and £250m, helping the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) meet its spending cuts target.
“This was not in either the Conservative or the liberal Democrats manifestos during the recent election,” said Mr. Phelps. “There is no mandate for this and it’s clearly an attempt to privatize yet another public asset and hand it over to selective groups who will restrict access by the public and use the land for their own profits”. He went on to suggest we risk having leisure park companies taking over plots, logging companies cutting down the trees, golf courses being created and some waste disposal companies simply using the land as a dump. “There are also some companies that want the land to cut down the trees and grow bio fuels to produce oil for cars”, claimed Mr. Phelps.
Caroline Lucas the Green MP in Westminster took a prominent role in the House of Commons debate during a recent adjournment debate and led opposition calls for the bill to be withdrawn. Ms. Lucas, who was an Oxford County Councillor in the 1990s, said that the legislation was being promoted as a way of raising money when in fact it would not do that. She has put down an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons asking for a full debate on the issue and so far 41 MPs other MP.s have signed the motion.

Although the value of these woodlands on the open market is estimated at £220m, the Defra report describes them as “unsellable at a political and practical level” and says the option is therefore “unviable”. Selling the other smaller “community woodlands”, 130 small sites valued at £50m, would involve costs of £234.1m and bring in benefits amounting to only £231.9m.
Online campaign group 38 Degrees say that more than 500,000 people have signed an internet petition to save the forests, with more than 75,000 writing to their MP demanding woodlands remain in public ownership.
Sid Phelps former Oxford City Green councillor in St. Mary’s ward joined over 1,000 campaigners last weekend in the Forest of Dean for a ‘mass trespass’ on public land that was recently sold to a private individual. “This is a national disgrace”, said Mr. Phelps who has been calling on Oxfordshire people to sign the 38 Degrees on line petition calling on the Government to change its stance and withdraw the Bill. He said the proposed sale to trusts who will then lease out the land will jeopardize the work of the Forestry Commission who have done such excellent work for the public for almost 100 years. “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it,” he added.
Ends

Contact

Sid Phelps : 01865 727723
Mobile : 07919977016

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