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  Future of the public forest estate

    The final report of the Independent Panel on Forestry was published on 4 July 2012 and is available for you to read here.

The Government’s response to the Final Report of the Independent Panel on Forestry has now been published and is available for you to read here .  It broadly accepts many of the recommendations of the Independent Panel, to which we ourselves gave evidence, both in writing as part of the Panel’s consultation process and in person to members of the Panel when they visited Yorkshire.  In particular, the Government has now announced that it supports the continued public ownership of the Public Forest Estate and that it has abandoned its earlier plan to dispose of 15 per cent of Forestry Commission forests and woodlands. This is welcome news for us.

In the future, the Government intends to set up a new body to hold the Public Forest Estate in trust, though with powers to buy and sell land, and which will take over from the Forestry Commission and Forest Enterprise England after legislation is passed. The new body “will be charged with generating a greater proportion of its income through appropriate commercial activity and with maximising the social, environmental and economic value of the assets under its care”. Much will therefore depend upon the new body’s future budget and scope for greater income generation, since these will influence how far it will be able to achieve the intended social and environment benefits that greater support for our forests and woodlands could secure. 

The Government’s new Policy Statement also says that: “At the local level, we consider that Forest Enterprise England management teams already do a good job in engaging with surrounding communities and other stakeholders but recognise that there is scope to do more. We will expect the new body to develop clear arrangements for working with businesses, charities and communities at the local level, building on the best current practice... This will involve working effectively with friends groups and other existing or potential partners in the area and tailoring arrangements, within an agreed national engagement framework, to the needs and capacities of particular locations and communities”. In addition, the Government intends to “launch a new initiative to develop further the involvement of local communities with the Public Forest Estate”. We therefore await these and other future developments with considerable interest.  

    More information can be found on the DEFRA web site here

    Page updated 3 Feb 2013

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