They shut the road through the woods Seventy years ago. Weather and rain have undone it again, And now you would never know There was once a road through the woods Before they planted the trees. It is underneath the coppice and heath, And the thin anemones. Only the keeper sees That, where the ring-dove broods, And the badgers roll at ease, There was once a road through the woods.
“We, who love and use the English forests, believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted. It is our national heritage. We are an island nation yet more people escape to the forest than to the seaside.
“Our forests nurture countless species of native plants and wildlife. We have relied on them since time immemorial yet we are only a heartbeat in their history. We who know the value of the forests fear that over time, the public’s access to them will be limited and their protection, eroded.
“We, the undersigned, believe it unconscionable that future generations will not be able to enjoy the guarantee of a public forest estate.”
Planning Policy Statement 9 (PPS9) states that local authorities should ‘identify any areas of ancient woodland in their areas that do not have statutory protection’ and normally ‘not grant planning permission for any development which would result in its loss or deterioration’.
The CRoW Act also introduced the ability to voluntarily dedicate woodland for free public access in perpetuity. Since then, Forest Enterprise has dedicated the majority of the public forest estate in England. The total area of dedicated woodland in England is 137,000 Hectares.
- Whether the government should own young growth commercial woodland – this is a straightforward business better in the private sector and issues around leisure uses for these forests (and especially uses such as cycling, wild food foraging and horse riding) can be protected and encouraged through regulatory oversight or prescriptive covenant
- How future management of ancient and old plantation woodland should be conducted – rather than being managed by a remote national body (that is really a logging business) would it not be better to transfer management to local authorities, create local trusts or transfer to the Woodland trust or similar?
- What changes to planning regulations, rights of way and other property considerations might enhance the public value of woodland outwith the issue of ownership and, as importantly, how can we continue to balance competing interests and objectives (for example, nature conservancy versus rights to roam)?