Sent to Lord Marland, Lord Hanningfield, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, Lord Eden of Winton, and Lord Henley (all conservative peers) using http://writetothem.com. Feel free to use it as the basis of letters to other members of the House of Lords, or write to your MP! I’ll let you know if any of them reply.
Here are some links if you don’t know what all this is about:
Dear Lord XXXX
I write on behalf of myself and my wife to express our extreme concern at the government’s plan to sell off large tracts of publicly owned forest and woodland in England within the public bodies reform bill which is currently passing through the House of Lords.
We are dismayed at the betrayal of our national heritage that these proposals represent, for a trifling amount of money relative to our national debt (less than a days interest payments I believe). The sale risks the loss of ancient woodland, a rare and desperately important natural habitat for many endangered species. Although the environment minister has pledged that biodiversity would be protected, it must be the case that the preservation of these habitats must be less secure outside of public ownership (what plans are there for policing the protection of valuable woodlands when sold off?). Although protected in law, what is to stop a developer logging an ancient woodland, selling off the lumber, paying the necessary fine for breaking the law, and then building their hotel / golf course / shopping centre? Such disgraceful behaviour already occurs to listed buildings, so I find it hard to believe that the same unscrupulous businessmen won’t do the same to our woodlands.
A second serious concern is that of access. Forest / woodland in public ownership provides free access to the countryside for recreation to millions of people every year. Whilst some (but not all) access will be protected under the Countryside Rights of Way act, CRoW will not protect nature trails, maintained paths, car parks etc, and furthermore only covers access on foot, and much of the public recreation in forests is on horseback or bicycle. To loose these rights of access will deprive the people of this country now, and forever, full access to huge wooded areas of their country. To my mind this is absolutely unthinkable.
Finally, it is inevitable that the sell-off of the forestry commission will cost hundreds of jobs and is likely to loose much of the valuable skills and expertise these people have to the UK forestry sector.
I urge you to speak against these proposals at the third reading of the bill in the House of Lords and to share your concerns about this bill with other members of the House face-to-face. Furthermore, I would request that you engage with experts in the Woodland Trust and the Wildlife Trusts to learn their concerns for the biodiversity of our ancient woodlands (which have been likened to rainforests in their diversity and fragility).