As leaked yesterday, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman MP has today announced she will delete the clauses in the Public Bodies Bill that would have enabled the sale of one half of all Forestry Commission land. As a result, the Government will now abandon plans to facilitate the sale of this English Forestry Commission Estate. Instead it will set up a panel to advise on biodiversity and forest access.
CTC has welcomed the Government’s u-turn but warned that it's not the end of the sell-off.
"Since there are still plans to sell 15 percent of England's forestry, we will keep on with out campaign to defend forest access by bike," said a statement from the CTC.
The organisation also revealed it had been working behind the scenes to secure an acceptable outcome for cyclists, whatever the results of the Government’s consultation.
In the run up to today’s u-turn announcement, Colin Palmer, CTC’s off-road advisor, met MPs, Peers and other potential allies, while CTC’s Chief Executive was due to speak to Environment Minister Richard Benyon MP this week. Benyon cancelled their meeting the day before David Cameron announced the end of the consultation.
Despite the Government’s U-turn, it still intends to sell 40,000 hectares, equivalent to 15 percent of the Forestry Commission estate - although these sales will not be implemented until the criteria are reassessed. CTC will campaign to retain cycle access in these forests.
Reflecting on the campaign so far, Colin Palmer said: “CTC has said all along that we’d prefer to see England’s forests remain in public ownership and we are now very pleased that the Government now seems to be accepting this principle.
"However, we need to ensure that cycle access is not lost in the future. We hope that Ministers now understand the importance to cycling of the forestry estate, and will look for ways to meet the increasing demand from families and cyclists for traffic-free cycling opportunities in England's forests.”