Hands Off Our Forest
A campaign to keep the
Forest of Dean out of private hands
AGAIN

We believe that public ownership of the Public Forest Estate must be secured through new legislation.

The rich cultural, historical and natural diversity of our forests and woods, and full access to them, is best protected under the continued steward-ship of the Forestry Commission, fully resourced to sustainably manage and expand our multi-purpose public forest estate now and in the future

Wednesday 1st January 2014 2013

Here we go again!

 

When HOOF, back in February, broadly welcomed the Government's response to the Forestry Panel Report, we said at the time that the devil would be in the detail.

 

We now know that the detail is very devilish indeed.

 

Far from embracing the forestry panel's recommendation to put the English forests into the hands of a body of independent, non-political guardians, thus safeguarding them for the foreseeable future, the Government proposals make it clear they want a minister to have total control. How is this different from the original ill-fated Public Bodies bill that we all helped smash?

 

Not only will this unleash the spectre of privatisation once again, but it will leave the forests, and the Forest of Dean, prey to the whim of whatever government is in power.

 

The Government has a chance to do the decent, fair and moral thing by putting our forests out of the reach of the greedy and unscrupulous, but I'm afraid it has blown it.

 

That is why HOOF is meeting as a matter of urgency and why we must all keep up the pressure on the government to abide by their word and do the right thing.

 

Wednesday 6th February 2013

Seeing The Woods For The Trees

An opinion piece by

Robin Maynard

Writing about how the Government was forced into its historic U turn, Robin Maynard says:

 

"It was 'Big Society' ...those half a million people who signed 38 Degrees ‘Save Our Forests’ on-line petition; the dog-walkers, horse-riders, mountain-bikers, fresh-air seeking families; the former mining communities fighting for reforested spoil-heaps, local saw mills dependent on the timber from well-managed FC woods - and especially, the communities living within and working amidst them , the various ‘friends of forests’ groups, amplified by the efforts of Save Our Wood , HOOF and Our Forests."

 

Read the full article here


Tuesday 15th January 2013

Politics and the Panel

An opinion piece by

Roderick Leslie

As the Government’s response to the Independent Panel approaches it’s clear there is only one way out of the political mess the Conservatives landed themselves in. That is to understand, accept and take action to turn the panel’s views into policy ...

Read the complete piece here

 

Friday 11th January 2013

COMMENT

A drop in the ocean - but a green world of difference

 

£22 million per year. That's what it costs to keep the Forestry Commission and all the English public forests going. It sounds a lot to you and me, but in the rarified world of government finance it is nothing. It works out at just 30p per year per taxpayer! This is stunning value for money when compared to other important and life-enhancing facilities such as opera, the arts, sport, etc, all of which cost far more.

 

It is a win win situation for the government and for all of us. For a mere 30p a year, which the public has demonstrated they are more than happy to pay, we get free access to our glorious forests, the lungs of the world, the emerald spaces that calm and revive. Compare that to what you spend a year on, say, TV, cinema, books, or beer and it looks like a no-brainer.

 

In fact, there is evidence that people would pay more if it meant having an effective and properly funded Forestry Commission who could conduct research into, and prevent, some of the tree diseases that have caused so much devastation recently.

 

If, as has been rumoured, the government is thinking of running down the Forestry Commission even further and cutting the public funding to our forests by passing on the costs to charities or private concerns - an unacceptable strategy that will seriously jeopardising the future of our forests - it will be guilty of letting down the English people for countless generations to come.

 

And if, as is also rumoured, the Government makes no provision to recognise the special and unique situation of the Forest of Dean and protect its status by legislation, they will find they have misjudged the mood of the people once again.

 

Saturday 28th August 2012

Foresters celebrate their victory

- but speakers sound warning note

 

"This Government cannot be trusted one inch", said keynote speaker Jonathon Porritt

 

On Saturday 28th July Foresters from all walks of life celebrated the independent panel's report at Speech House with local musicians, invited speakers and a hog roast and bar.

 

Forester editor Viv Hargreaves introduced the speakers, HOOF chairman Rich Daniels, Baroness Jan Royall, campaigner Jonathon Porritt and Sir Harry Studholme, one of the members of the independent panel who's report backed HOOF's stance to keep the English Forests out of private hands.

 

Rich Daniels           Jonathon Porritt

 

Jan Royall               Sir Harry Studholme

 

Local musicians Bob Smith, Forest of Dean Brass, Asha Faria-Vare, Max, Gorg n Zola, Muddy Summers, Mike Edwards, and Folklaw performed, and Keith Morgan entertained us with his stories.

 

Mike Smith

 

Asha Faria-Fare        Max

 

-----------------------------------

 

NEWS...

Wednesday 27th June 2012

ENGLAND'S FOREST COMMUNITIES WARN GOVERNMENT

 

In a strongly worded statement, a consortium of Our Forests, HOOF and many other forest community groups has warned the Government to expect "...a conflagration in constituencies across England." if they do not listen to the public, and press ahead with their original plans to take our woodlands out of public ownership.

 

For further details see our lead article, centre column, this page

 

You can read or download the full document here

 

Wednesday 27th June 2012

38 DEGREES LAUNCHES EMERGENCY PETITION

 

38 Degrees, whose online petition raised many thousands of signatures in support of keeping our woodland in public ownership, have just launched a new emergency petition on the eve of the Independent Panels report, due out on the 4th July.

 

You can add your name to the new petition here:

 

Tuesday 22nd May 2012

WOODLANDS CAN BE SOLD OFF FROM 4th JULY SAYS GOVERNMENT

 

On July 4, when the Government-appointed panel is due to publish its final report, the suspension of woodland sales is also due to be lifted. Outlying woods in the Forest of Dean could be among those of the 40,000ha, or 15 per cent, of woodland the Government has said it intends to sell.

 

Monday 21st May 2012

FORESTRY PANEL FINAL REPORT DUE OUT
4th JULY

 

The proposed date for the final report is 4th July

 

Whatever the panel's conclusions, we must be vigilant. Even if they give us everything we hope for, there is no obligation on Government to accept its findings, so we must be prepared to continue the battle to save our forests for future generations.

 

The latest Forestry Panel newsletter can be downloaded in PDF format here.

 

------------------------------------------------

 

11th August 2011

Excellent response to HOOF's request for your views to the Independent Panel

 

The Independent Forestry Panel (see main article lower down on right) made it clear they wanted YOUR views and WILL take them into account.

 

The deadline for submissions ended on the 31st July and indications are that many hundreds of Foresters have written to the panel, many using the HOOF website's form.

 

It would also appear that the vast majority of people writing to the panel from the Forest of Dean expressed their confidence in the Forestry Commission and actually wanted the amount of forest land owned by the public and managed by the FC to increase.

 

A huge thank you to everyone who wrote in. The Panel were very impressed with the depth of feeling here in the Forest when they visited in June and will be even more impressed with the submissions.

--------------------------------------

For all this and more go to our News section

 

And now you can visit our Archives page for all those stories you may have missed.

 

 

HOOF CD NOW AVAILABLE!

BUY ONE NOW AS A MUST-HAVE MEMENTO OF OUR STRUGGLE

But be quick - they will soon be a collectors item!

click image to BUY NOW  

HANDS OFF features songs by:

Billy Bragg & Heathens All;

Forest Brass; Dick Bryce;

Mike Edwards; Bob Smith; Max;

Asha Faria-Vare; Ghost of a Dog and Roger Drury & Friends

 

This CD specially made for HOOF can be bought, priced £5, from the Forest Bookshop in Coleford, Forester office in Cinderford, Forest Review office in Lydney, Brierley Service Station, the Miners' Arms in Whitecroft and at various events.

It can also be ordered online, priced £6 including post and packaging, from the Poet Pilot web site here

The site also includes detailed information about the CD

 

£4 from each CD will go to the HOOF fighting fund

 

Many thanks to Mike Edwards who produced the CD, all the Forest artists who play on it and Billy Bragg, who kindly allowed us to use the song This Land from his latest album.

 

 

HOOF Rally 3rd Jan

Images, text and links to other reports about the rally have now moved to the Archives page

 

Remember that everything that has appeared on this website can be found on the News, Information or Archives pages.

 

 

 

Now incorporating
OUR FORESTS and FOREST CAMPAIGNS NETWORK

 

 

FOREST CAMPAIGNS NETWORK

 

Sunday 4th August 2013

 

Three vital documents to read to understand the latest developments in the campaign to save our forests

 

New Government draft proposals

Our Forests statement

Ou Forests Stop Press statement

 

See below and middle column for what the latest proposals by Government are all about, and HOOF's and Our Forest's reaction to them

 

Sunday 4th August 2013

LATEST DRAFT REPORT MAKES CONCESSIONS BUT SHOWS DANGERS TO FORESTS REMAIN

Government blackmailing pressure groups to "sign up" or legislation will be postponed

 

The Forestry Commission/Defra has just released their latest outline for the management structures and governance of the Public Forest Estate management body.


The structures and governance outlined in this latest draft appear to address some, but not ALL of Our Forests concerns or those voiced by other grassroots groups and activists who have been campaigning for a secure and sustainable future for our public woods and forests from the outset.

 

Our Forests specific comments to the draft document are:

 

Point 1, reiterates the Government’s promise “that England’s Public Forest Estate will remain secured in public ownership”. Good to see that upfront, but the details of how that public ownership will be secured remain vague.

 

Point 3, “Nothing in this document is fixed”. Good, because there still appear to be omissions from and dilutions some of the Panel’s key recommendations as set out below and in the Our Forests press release.

 

Point 6, “revenue generation and self-sufficiency” are prioritised above the new body’s duty to balance those “with generating positive impacts for people and nature.”

 

Point 8, The Guardians – as per the concerns Our Forests rises in our press release, as proposed in the document the Guardians appear to have a weaker, woollier role than envisaged by the Panel. They are described as “the conscience of the Public Forest Estate”, not the managers and sitting outside the Board of Executive and Non-Executive directors (who will be appointed by the Secretary of State).

 

Point 9, there is a veiled threat that time is pressing for securing the parliamentary time for the new primary legislation necessary to establish the new structures. This threat has been made obliquely several times to various campaigners and grassroots groups concerned about the future of the PFE – along the lines of, ‘don’t hold things up or you may lose everything.’  The Government shouldn’t need reminding that it was its own actions in proposing to dispose of the whole 100% of the 1,500 public woods and forests that make-up the PFE that got it into this situation in the first place and it is its job, responding to the protests by 100s of 1000s of people across the political and social spectrums, to enable a positive solution. It is the Government and its officials that to date have taken nearly 3 and a half years to reach this point!

 

Point 15, the document refers to the organisation’s objectives and duties being “reflected in a public-facing “charter”, setting the body’s remit for a long period, for example 10 years.”  That is not as definite or legally-binding as the Parliamentary Charter the Panel proposed – hence our concerns raised in the press release as to the absence of a real Charter hold.

 

Point 17, Ownership “The organisation would take over ownership of the estate ownership would be vested in the new body rather than its Board.”   As the Panel recommended, the PFE should ‘be held in trust for the Nation’ set down in a legally-binding Charter.  The Guardians should be an integral part of the new management body (not a separate repository for the ‘touchy-feely’ stuff) and be the part which represents and guards ‘public ownership’.


 

Wednesday 6th February 2013

GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO INPEPENDENT REPORT IS BROADLY WELCOMED

But concerns remain over lack of funding

In a statement released today, Forest Campaigns Network say:

 

We welcome the commitments given by Government:

However, we do have concerns about the statement:

 

On funding

 

 

 

Wednesday 23rd January 2013

GET THE ECONOMICS RIGHT!

Our Forests warns Government on Public Forest Estate

 

As the Government is poised to set out its policy on the future of England’s public woods and forests - and on the Forestry Commission which manages them - an economic analysis carried out for Our Forests confirms that both the Public Forest Estate and the Forestry Commission represent excellent value for public money.

A financial review by the independent consultancy Eunomia of the costs and benefits provided by the Public Forest Estate (PFE) shows that the Government’s original rationale for disposing of our public woods and forest and altering their management arrangements was completely flawed.

 

The stated rationale behind the Government’s proposed disposal of England’s Public Forest Estate (PFE) in 2010/11 was to:
- reduce the burden on taxpayers;
- raise revenue by selling assets;
- withdraw from activities that (in the Government’s view) would be better done by others – be those ‘Big Society’, charitable bodies or private commercial interests.

 

But Eunomia’s analysis is that none of the Government’s stated objectives would have been achieved by those plans.

 

You can read the full document from Our Forests here

 

Thursday 10th January 2013

Forest campaign groups demand properly funded public forests in England.

 

In an open letter to DEFRA ministers Owen Paterson and David Heath and to Chancellor George Osborne, Forest Campaigns Network have expressed concern that there has not been any commitment from Government departments regarding adequate funding of the Independent Panel's recommendations.

 

They ask for a firm assurance that the Government will ensure a properly funded future for our public English forests.

 

The full letter can be viewed here

 

Forest Campaigns Network have also released a briefing document that looks at the spending review cuts and the very real impact that they are already having on our public forests and the consequences if cuts continue to be imposed. Click here to view


Monday 17th September 2012

A new document, explaining how the Forest Campaigns Network (FCN) engages with DEFRA and the Forestry Commission, has been published today.

 

It begins "FCN welcomes the engagement we have had with the DEFRA/FC working group to date and look forward to working with them further as part of the crucial process in determining how our woods and forests will sustainably deliver the triple bottom line (good for our economy, good for our communities and good for our environment)".

 

Read the full document here

 

OUR FORESTS

Friday 17th February 2012

 

"In our opinion, there is little likelihood of this Government ‘doing the right thing’ by way of the Public Forest Estate unless it is strenuously encouraged so to do by all and sundry"

 

This is the conclusion of an OUR FORESTS meeting held on 6 February 2012 at Forum for the Future, London

 

Read the complete notes of the meeting here

 


"...get our public woods and forests out of the hands of distant, detached ministers only interested in short-term asset-stripping and protect them for everyone, for ever".

 

Rich Daniels, HOOF Chairman and member of Our Forests, writing in Our Forests latest publication

 

Reaction from Jonathon Porritt on the The Independent Panel on Forestry's interim report

 

Jonathon Porritt, founder member of Our Forests, talking at the HOOF rally.


Jonathon Porritt of Our Forests said,
“It’s good to see the Panel acknowledge openly what was obvious to anyone who looked at the figures – the Forestry Commission delivers very good value for money for all the public benefits it provides from the woods and forests of the public forest estate.
Defra’s own internal impacts study of the proposed disposal made that clear, but that fact didn’t suit the political agenda of the Government. This welcome acknowledgement by the Panel confirms it was politics not economics that drove the disposal proposal - there isn’t and never was a convincing financial case for disposing of our public woods and forests. Their benefits far outweigh their costs.
As an ‘interim report’, the Panel doesn’t put forward any concrete recommendations, but Our Forests is concerned at the apparent havering over the future role of the Forestry Commission. The majority of people who responded to the Panel and the hundreds of thousands more who forced the Government to halt its plans in the first place, see the Public Forest Estate and the Forestry Commission as indivisible. As far as most people are concerned, the Forestry Commission is part of ‘Big Society’ - accountable to local people, not the distant, detached ‘Quango’ ministers sought to caricature it as.
One immediate action that the Government must take in response to its own Panel's report is to state unequivocally that no disposal of any public woodland will proceed until a final forward plan for the Public Forest Estate has been set out and accepted by the public.
Our Forests is producing its own future Vision and long-term strategy for our public woods and forests, as well as looking beyond those. This will be published shortly and made available for people’s input.”

 

DEFRA turns down Freedom of Information request!

 

Our Forests to make formal complaint against a ruling that is seen as "A manifest abuse of both the broad principles and the specific guidelines under the Freedom of Information Act".

 

 

HOOF chairman, Rich Daniels, is an
Our Forests committee member

 

The full text of this and other issues raised at their last meeting can be read here in the Our Forests minutes.

 

7th November 2011

HOOF is One Year Old!

 

Hard to believe but it is a year ago today that HOOF was first formed to fight the forest privatisation menace.

 

Much has happened in that year but there is still much to do.

 

To mark the event, Ian Standing, HOOF Secretary, has written a marvellous account of our turbulent campaign which you can read here.

 

 

Legendary Forest cartoonist BAZ has drawn this cartoon specially for HOOF

Click on image to enlarge.

 

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HOOF are founder members of the Forest Campaigns Network

 

HOOF Hands off our forest

------------------------------------

"Maybe this is the defining moment, the point when people say ' This is not right, this is not the way to proceed' ".

Jonathon Porrit, talking at the HOOF rally earlier this year

 

CLICK THE ICONS AT THE FOOT OF THIS PAGE TO SEE US IN THE FORESTER AND THE REVEIW AND ON FACEBOOK AND YOUTUBE

 

We are now on Wikipedia

 

FOLLOW US ON hands off our forest @handsoffdean

 

Click here to see the long long list of people and organisations who have pledged to support HOOF.

 

NEW Thursday 10th April 2014

 

Shadow Minister meets HOOF

 

 

Right to left: Maria Eagle, Shadow environment minister;Rich Daniels, HOOF; Steve Parry-Hearn, prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for the Forest of Dean; Jackie Fraser and Cheryl Mayo, HOOF

 

Shadow environment minister, Maria Eagle, hears HOOF's case detailing why the Government's latest proposals for the public forest estate in England are inadequte.

 

On Thursday 10th April, the shadow environment minister Maria Eagle met at Beechenhurst with representatives of HOOF and with Steve Parry-Hearn, the Forest of Dean's Labour parliamentary candidate, who supports HOOF in their campaign.

 

Ms Eagle listened attentively to HOOF's case for why the Government's proposed new forestry bill will still leave England's public woodlands under threat.

 

HOOF had also invited the Defra secretary Owen Paterson and Forestry minister Dan Rogerson to the Forest of Dean, but so far they have not taken up our invitation.

 

HOOF is pleased that our cause has been championed by the Forest of Dean Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Steve Parry-Hearn, and Maria Eagle. HOOF has also received full backing from the Green Party.

 

Now HOOF calls on our MP, Mark Harper, to back our campaign aims: These aims are:

 

1. Guaranteed £22 million in funding from the Treasury for the English Public Forest Estate per annum (or 38p per annum, per taxpayer) to ensure public benefits, plant health and conservation are protected.

 

2. To follow in full the Independent Panel for Forestry's recommendation of a board of Guardians (with its members balanced between community, conservation and business representatives) delivering and bound by the terms of a statutory Charter, and answerable to Parliament.

 

3. To introduce draft legislation in the June 4 Queen's Speech, and not delay it any longer.

 

4. For the legislation to include a safeguard ensuring that the new Public Forest Estate Management Body cannot be privatised during the lifetime of the Act of Parliament.

 

5. For the cessation of biodiversity offsetting schemes, backdoor privatisation of public facilities, and land sales, swaps, leasings and other forms of piecemeal disposal and change of use of land within the Public Forest Estate.

 

Hands Off Our Forest has been giving presentations at public events and parish and town meetings across the Forest of Dean explaining our concerns and we have received universal support and positive feedback at all of them.

 

Monday 31st March 2014

 

New law allows sell off of woodlands

 

 

800 year old woods to be bulldozed to make way for new motorway service station using the bio-diversity offsetting laws.

 

HOOF urges you to object NOW to avoid this devastating legal loophole (see later for how to register your protest)

 

Grave implications for the future of the Forest of Dean says HOOF

 

 

Smithy Wood is a haven for a variety of ancient woodland plants, fungi and butterflies. But developers want to bulldoze the 12th-century forest to make way for a motorway petrol station.

 

In a crucial test case, Extra MSA Group has submitted a formal planning application to destroy 20 acres of ancient woodland, and offered to plant twice as many new trees nearby.

 

The firm, which specialises in building motorway services, is the first to attempt to use the controversial process, known as 'biodiversity offsetting', for ancient woodland

 

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is very keen on the idea of offsetting.

 

But wildlife groups say it is a travesty to suggest that ancient woodlands, which in this case are 850 years old, could be replaced overnight. They are worried the proposals will create a loophole that allows developers to freely concrete over Britain’s forests.

 

 

But even if this case is rejected, the implications for the Forest of Dean and other English public forests is dire, as very little of the FoD is classified as ancient woodland and would have far less protection.

 

Under the new law, any forest can be destroyed as long as trees are planted elsewhere. In theory, this means the whole of the Forest of Dean could be concreted over, as long as a hillside in Scotland or Bavaria was re-forested.

 

What can we do?

 

HOOF's legal advisor, Alan Robertson, has sent the following information and we urge you to follow his example and register your dismay at this desecration. If we can nip this in the bud now, perhaps we will stand more chance of saving our Forest from this appalling new law.

 

 

Alan writes that the sensible and practical thing to do NOW is to object to the application and encourage the world and his wife to do likewise.

 

Send an objection - online. To do so, go to the Sheffield City Council Website and make a comment. You will need to register first, but it only takes a minute.

 

He says "In addition, send an e-mail to the local MP, Angela Smith, who opposes the application. Give her as much ammunition as possible. I can't see 38 Degrees taking up cudgels against a planning application so if there is to be an expression of large-scale opposition it is up to campaign groups and the like to organise and encourage it".

 

Monday 17th March 2014

 

"Why we must keep fighting"

 

 

HOOF has produced a document explaining why our Forest is still under threat.

 

Download it here. Read it, print it out, send it to everyone you know. This leaflet will make it clear why we have not yet won the battle to keep our forests out of the hands of property developers and charities

 

Over the next few weeks HOOF will be campaigning vigourously to make everyone aware of why we cannot accept the Government's new proposals. They will be holding community/council consultations,starting with a presentation to Newent Council on Monday 17th March at 8pm.

 

We will also be at the Transitions Spring Fair at Cinderford Miners' Welfare Hall, from 11am-4pm, so come along and find out what's going on and ask questions.

 

Wednesday 1st January 2014

 

HANDS OFF
OUR FOREST!

(AGAIN!)

 

Our Forest is still in danger of being taken away from us!

 

The first few months of 2014 will be a crucial time.

 

Flying in the face of the recommendations of the Government appointed independent panel, and in spite of frequent meetings between HOOF, Save Our Woods and Government ministers, this Government has produced a bill that will have the effect of selling off our woods to private developers .

 

In a letter being sent today to local and national press and TV, Rich Daniels, HOOF Chairman, says:

 

"The time has come again for everyone to engage again with the fight to save our Forest from predators, and battle a new piece of legislation which, if passed by Parliament, has the potential of leaving our Forest of Dean open to exploitation from (to quote from the latest proposals) “a range of commercial freedoms... [including] mineral extraction, agriculture and industrial lettings of land and premises”.

 

"HOOF doesn’t think there are anywhere near enough safeguards to protect the Forest from being taken over by private leisure and industrial concerns, and we fear that transferring the ownership and management to a public corporation could be a halfway house to full-scale privatisation."

 

The full press release from Rich can be viewed or downloaded here. This is essential reading. Please download it now and email it to everyone you know

 

If we do nothing, we WILL lose our precious Forest

 

The HOOF Committee will be meeting next week to plan an urgent new campaign, so keep coming back to this website for details.

 

So it is with great regret we have to say - Hands Off Our Forest - Again!

 

Monday 23rd September 2013

HOOF submits its document of disquiet to Secretary of State

 

 

Government falling short on its promise to implement the Independent Forestry Panel's report.

 

Toothless Guardians, opening up our forests to commercial interests and lack of funding particular worries

 

HOOF today has submitted to the Secretary of State its response to the Government's proposals for England's forests. It singles out for particular criticism the changed role of the Guardians from that of powerful control to toothless watchdog; the lack of adequate funding from the public purse; and the hazy rules about disposal of parts of the estate which HOOF feels do not adequately safeguard the forests, especially the Forest of Dean.

 

In the 8 page document, HOOF argues that on these and other issues, the Government's proposals fall far short of the Independent Panel's vision of a strengthened and expanded forest estate, kept safe in perpetuity for the people.

 

To read the full document, click here or on the image above

 

The two recently published Government documents to which the above refers can be seen here and here

 

 

Sunday 4th August2013

 

Bishop James unhappy with Government palns for Forests

Head of independent report tells HOOF of fears that draft government proposals contradict the panel’s main recommendations

 

 

The Bishop of Liverpool (left) with members of the panel

visiting a working mine with Rich Daniels

 

Government “unwise to provoke a public reaction” by failing to follow the panel’s key points.

 

In an exclusive interview with HOOF’s Rich Daniels, the Bishop of Liverpool expressed his fears that the government may not be planning to implement the key recommendations of the report that he and the rest of the Independent Panel published, following the government’s U-turn over privatising the English public forests.

 

Bishop James said he would not be content with any proposals about the future of forestry which contradicted the recommendations of the Independent Panel.

 

In particular he said he would be unhappy if:

- The Government abandoned the proposal to establish a Parliamentary Charter

 

- If it marginalised the proposed Guardians to the point that they become ineffectual

 

- If it failed to establish a distance between the Government and the management and development of the Public Forest Estate.

These were all key elements of the Panel’s report and recommendations. 

He said the Government would be unwise to provoke a public reaction by failing to follow through on the Panel’s recommendations.

 

Rich Daniels, HOOF chair and Our Forests member, said,

 

“The latest arrangements appear to minimise the direct and real influence of the public and forest communities in the management of the public forest estate. And the emphasis for the new body seems to be primarily on developing commercial enterprises that can exploit and extract cash from our forests and woods, rather than maximising their less readily monetised and marketable, but nonetheless hugely valuable, public and environmental goods and services”

 

Sunday 4th August2013

 

HOOF and Our Forests pressure wins Government concessions, but dangers for safety of public forests remain

 

 

Independent Panel challenged to respond to the Government’s proposals

 

In its latest version of its draft outline for the management structure, the consultations the minister has had with representatives from HOOF and Our Forests seems to have had an effect, as they appear to have addressed some of our concerns (see column on right).

 

However, much remains wooly and uncertain, and it is far from clear that the English public forest estate is safe in the government’s hands.

 

In an open letter to the Independent Panel on Forestry, Our Forests today throws down the gauntlet and bluntly asks them:

 

“Are you content to allow the Government to ignore and dilute your key recommendations for the future of the Public Forest Estate?”

 

Our Forests go on to make it clear that the Government may be about to renege on the commitment they made to implement the report in full.

 

In particular, Our Forests believes that the Government’s draft proposals fail to meet the independent report’s key criteria, resulting in:

 

No charter
This was the panel’s main recommendation, its aim being to remove the public Forests from party political control.

 

Guardians reduced to a sideshow
The role of the Independent “Guardians”, who the panel envisaged would oversee and control the executives who administer our forests, is reduced to a toothless body appointed by the secretary of state.

 

Reducing public funding and increasing economic returns prioritised above all other benefits.
The independent report made it clear that the 35p a year per person that the English forests cost the taxpayer were extremely good value for money and that benefits of health and well-being were at least as important as making money from trees. However, the present government does not see it this way and seems to see the forests only as a cash cow to be milked for the exchequer.

 

Our Forests member Jonathon Porritt said:

“Hundreds of thousands of people in communities across the country placed great faith in the Panel’s role and its recommendations for securing the long-term future of their woods and forests. Therefore, Our Forests is challenging the Panel to come out openly and say whether or not it is content with the Government’s interpretation and proposed implementation of its recommendations?”

 

HOOF of course, through it’s chair Rich Daniels, plays a pivotal role in Our Forests and we completely endorse the great work Our Forests are doing on behalf of the people of the Forest of Dean and the whole country.

 

The full Our Forests statement

The Stop Press statement following the Governments new draft

 

 

 

Wednesday 10th July 2013

FOREST MAY BE IN PERIL AGAIN!

 

Government says it may not implement the key aspects of the independent report.

"Guardians" to be toothless.

Minister to have total control over who runs our forests.

 

 

After 3 years of protest and a major independent report, The Government has published its initial proposals for managing England's public forests.

 

HOOF have looked at these proposals - and we do not like what we have seen.

 

If these plans are implented without amendment, the Government will be throwing away the report's model of a non-political body of guardians to safeguard the English forests for the people. They seem determined to implement their original version of privatisation and put the Secretary of State in total control.

When the Government asked the Bishop of Liverpool and his panel to prepare a report into how England's public forests should be managed, it said it would abide by the report, whatever it's outcome.

Look at the table below and you decide whether they intend to abide by the report...

 

The Independent Report said Government are proposing
A board of independent Guardians should safeguard the future of the English public Forests The Guardians' role to be subjugated to "advisory" only, with no powers to alter anything
Forests to be run on a day to day basis by a Board of Directors who answer to the Guardians Directors to set policy including whether private companies or charities can run aspects of the forests
Guardians and Directors to be free from political pressure so they can keep the forests safe for everyone Directors and Guardians to be appointed by and directly answerable to the Secretary of State

 

HOOF are demanding talks with the Ministers involved and we will let you know how they go as soon as we can.

 

The Government are saying "It will be alright. Trust us"

WELL DO YOU?

We won before and we will win again, and unless they are prepared to alter their proposals the only losers will be the present coalition government when the nation realises they cannot be trusted with our precious forests.

 

The two recently published Government documents to which the above refers can be seen here and here


Sunday 10th February 2013

A HUGE THANK YOU!

To all Hands Off Our Forest Supporters

 

The news from the Government response to the Forestry Panel Report is very encouraging. We have all come a great distance since we all stood on a snowy Speech House field two years ago.

 

Now the government has committed:

• to keep the Public Forest Estate in public ownership
• to recognise the importance of our forest culture to the economy
• to confirm that forests and woodlands will not be sold and to formally rescind the suspended sale of 15% of the Public Forest Estate
• to engage stakeholders, communities, and those who spoke up for our forests, in designing how they are run in future
• to increase and improve public access to woodland, including private woodlands
• to increase tree cover and provide woodlands accessible to where people live

Friends of HOOF come from an infinitely wide range of people who make up our Forest community; a community which understands our Forest and wishes to see it safe for future generations; a community that has the Forest at its heart.

 

The truth is simply this: without the support of the people of the Forest of Dean, HOOF would not have been able to achieve what we have.

 

It is fair to say that the Forest of Dean was the spark that rose to a flame and helped inspire people across our country to stand up for their Forests.

 

I feel sure that should the situation arise when we need to stand together again, the people of the Forest will be there to answer the call, to protect their Forest, as they have always done.

On behalf of the HOOF Steering group, I would like to pass on a huge thank you for your continued support. We could not have done it without you.

 

Rich Daniels, Chairman

 

HOOF's Rich Daniels (third from left) and members of Forest Campaigns Network at a recent meeting with David Heath, Minister for Agriculture and Food (centre).

Photo courtesy of Hen (left) of Save Our Woods

 

31st Jan 2013

GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES RESPONSE TO INDEPENDENT PANEL REPORT

The Government has published its long awaited statement about the future of our public forests

At first glance the Government's response would seem to offer most of what all of us here in the Dean have been campaigning for - but as always the devil is in the detail.

 

Of particular concern is the lack of commitment to funding the Forestry Commission, and the general vagueness of the proposal for future funding, which it says will be decided later.

 

Rest assured we will be analysing the document closely over the next few days, so come back here to read more.

 

You can read the report for yourself by clicking here

 

And of course we would like you to post your opinion of the report on our COMMENT PAGE

 

Thursday 10th January 2013

HOOF CONTINUES FIGHT FOR FUTURE OF FOREST

- FUNDING AND RESOURCES NOW KEY ISSUES

 

Hands Off Our Forest is calling on the Government to follow the expert recommendations of the independent panel it set up and provide adequate funding for the future management of our Forest.

 

HOOF also wants to alert supporters to the fact that “we’re not out of the woods yet!”

 

The first HOOF protest march just over two years ago that kick-started the

nation-wide rebellion against the privatisation of our forests

 

HOOF considers that we Foresters have won two rounds of the battle to keep our Forest public – signalled by the Government’s U-turn on sales and the panel’s positive report which upholds the principles of public management and ownership.

 

But it’s now time for Round 3, which we still need to win to secure the future of the Forest of Dean in public hands.

 

The Government’s official response to the July 2012 Independent Panel Report, commissioned by the former environment secretary Caroline Spelman, is due to be published later this month (January 2013), and HOOF is gearing up for action once again in order to respond to it.

 

HOOF welcomed the panel’s report and Mrs Spelman’s confirmation that our Forest would remain in public ownership. HOOF also largely welcomed the panel’s proposals for an evolved Forestry Commission which would enable the management of the Dean and other public forests by a public body removed from governmental interference and with more community involvement.

 

However, the report did not mention our own Forest’s peculiar rights and customs and how they would be protected and enshrined in any future legislation and Charter;

 

HOOF also raised concerns about how the proposed new model and future management structure would be funded, and called for the costs of creating and maintaining the new structure to be covered and properly resourced from the public purse. It has been estimated that £20 million would be required annually to pay for the upkeep of the public forest estates under the new proposed structure.

 

HOOF spent the latter half of 2012 lobbying ministers, including meeting with the new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the Forestry minister David Heath, and the Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper, as well as joining Defra and Forestry Commission research teams on site visits to the Forest of Dean, on these various points. While the representatives of HOOF and other grassroots forest campaign groups who attended the same meetings have detected a supportive response from all regarding the panel report’s recommendations, HOOF has had no positive feedback regarding the issue of funding.

 

HOOF chair Rich Daniels said: “The bottom line is the money. Despite the Forestry Commission and the Public Forest Estate providing outstanding value, anything with a cost attached is in serious jeopardy of not being taken forward. If there is a failure of government to safeguard our Forest and its management, we may have to protest all over again!”

 

Whatever the future outcome on the Forestry Commission’s structure decided by the Government, HOOF, working alongside the Forest Campaigns’ Network (FCN), will press for sufficient funding to be made available to ensure delivery of the various benefits identified in the Panel’s report.

 

HOOF also continues, with the FCN, to press for new legislation to protect the public woodlands in perpetuity from being sold off.

 

 

Thursday 13th September 2012

HOOF's response to the Panel's report

 

We asked you, the people of the Forest of Dean, what you thought of the final report into the future of England's forests and to help us shape HOOF's response to it.

 

We have now finished our response, which will be sent to government ministers, local councillors and the press. It can be read and printed out in full here.

 

 

Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas.

 

The opening paragraphs of the report say that HOOF welcomes the IPF Report and the government’s commitment to retain England’s public forest estate (PFE) in public ownership.

 

However, we are concerned that the Report makes no distinction between forests. The Forest of Dean is an ancient, historic forest gifted by King George V to the people of the nation, and has many unique traditions and customs.

 

In addition, many of the Report’s recommendations require further clarity. This document also highlights those recommendations and provides HOOF’s views on how we believe they should be implemented in order to ensure that the spirit of the Panel’s Report is retained.

 

Wednesday 4th July 2012

 

INDEPENDENT FORESTRY REPORT WELCOMED BY HOOF AND OTHER CAMPAIGN GROUPS

 

 

Historic report seeks to increase forests

 

Government accepts that our woods will stay in public

hands. Proposed 15% sell-off will no longer go ahead

 

Forestry Panel Chairman says visit to Forest of Dean “shaped its thinking”

 

 

Main points from the report, published on 4th July 2012:

Download it from DEFRA's web site here

 

HOOF SAYS:

 

PEOPLE POWER HAS WON THE DAY

 

HOOF and the people of the Forest of Dean have been vindicated by this report. It appears that people power has won the day. But we do have some questions regarding the future management structure of our forests, which causes us some concern. The devil will be in the detail.


We welcome the recommendation that our forest will remain in public ownership and that Defra has confirmed the 15 per cent planned sales will not go ahead. What we have been calling for since the start of our campaign has been heeded, and it was great to hear Bishop James confirming the panel’s visit to the Forest of Dean shaped its thinking.


We must remain vigilant to ensure the Government acts on the panel’s recommendations, and also provides the funding and resources necessary. There is a need for HOOF to remain strong and representative to ensure the best intentions of the panel and Government are fulfilled.

 

One of the key recommendations is for a Charter to protect forests, to be managed by a group of "guardians”, that will will oversee the new public forest management organisation. Alan Robertson of HOOF said this is “Probably the single most important recommendation and possibly the most effective way of securing inalienability and protecting the PFE from the depredations of this and future governments".

 

However, he went on to warn that it was important the Charter should be drawn up by a more representative group than the Panel, and the trustees should likewise be drawn from a wide pool, including the campaigning groups.

 

He said it was important that HOOF (and Our Forests) continue to influence and monitor the work of the trust.

 

And Baroness Jan Royall sent us the following message:

Huge thanks to HOOF for their campaigning and their advocacy and for all those people in the Forest who hosted and helped with the visit last year by Bishop James and his colleagues on the Independent Panel on Forestry. The visit was clearly influential and the Panel has done a superb job and produced an excellent report which I warmly welcome.

 

There is real recognition of the many and varied public benefits of our woods and forests and a clear message that we should better value this part of our common heritage. I am delighted that not only does the report say that forests must stay in public hands and be managed sustainably, it recommends that the percentage of our public woodland cover should be increased. I also welcome the Government's announcement that they will not sell off fifteen percent of the forests as planned.

 

We can now work on a cross-party basis to protect biodiversity, create more woodlands and secure access for future generations to enjoy. As the report says, let the public debate continue about the social, environmental and economic opportunities that our forests can deliver. I know that HOOF and the people of the Forest will be a vital part of that debate.

We will be publishing more about this historic report and our reactions to it over the next few days.

 

Wednesday 27th June 2012

PUBLIC READY TO RISE UP AGAIN IF GOVERNMENT FAILS THEM OVER PUBLIC WOODS AND FORESTS

Community groups from all over England sign declaration

 

rich daniels at the HOOF rally

 

Our Forests, working closely with grassroots & forest community groups across England, has produced a shared declaration of support for our public woods and forests and those who look after them. They also produced a short statement that was agreed by all and which now figures permanently at the top of this page. They have sent this out to all 170 or so MPs whose constituencies include areas of woodland and forest that fall within the public forest estate.

 

The declaration mirrors the findings of recent surveys, which found that the vast majority of people in the country want to get our public woods out of the hands of the Secretary of State - who effectively can do as he or she wishes with our woods - and secured for the public for all time, funded by the taxpayer.

 

Grassroots groups who have signed up to the statement are:

Berkshire Save our Woods

Friends of the Lake District
Friends of Thetford Forest
HOOF (Hands Off Our Forest)

Keep Our Forests Public
Save Cannock Chase
Save Chopwell Forest
Save Delamere Forest

Save Kielder
Save Lakelands Forests
Save Our Woods
Save Sandlings Forest

Save Sherwood Forest

South West Surrey Save our Woods

 

HOOF Chairman and Our Forests member Rich Daniels, said:

"It would be unwise for Government to think that the sale of any significant part of OUR public Forests and woods would pass without reigniting the flames of protest in the hearts of people and forest communities across England. The prospect of any of our public woods and forests being threatened again after we have fought so hard to protect them will be met with even more determined campaigning.”

You can read or download the full document here

 

Our Forests carried out an independent survey of members of 38 Degrees, which shows overwhelming support for maintaining and expanding the public forest estate.

 

The survey also showed the willingness of the public to come out in defence of their patch of public woodland should the Government fail to deliver what the public wants for our woods & forests.

 

You can read or download the full survey results here.

 

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