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

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

Statement from HOOF Fri 21st Nov 2014

Working together in our myriad ways we have had quite an impact in Westminster. Well done everyone who helped! While we will keep a watching brief on this Government,our task now is to ensure the next Government gives us proper protection in a charter and new law, as they've promised but so far failed to deliver. Our Forests aren't saved until we get lasting protection confirming genuine public ownership (and management). PEOPLE POWER WILL WIN THE DAY!

Visit our blog page for the latest Election 2015 News


Sun 11th Jan 2015


Just to remind what this all about, here is our original submission to the Indepent Panel way back in June 2011. Read it and you will see why it is as relevant today as it was was then. It makes it all too clear that we are not out of the woods yet.



Incidentally, it makes a very good read, reminds us all what a wonderful place we live in and has some great photographs


Thurs 20th Nov 2014

HOOF success: Government confirms all forest land protected


HOOF has always asked that ALL the public forest estate - whether in use or not, whether afforested or not, whether designated waste or not, should be exempt from the infrastructure bill.


The Government has now stated unequivocally that none of our forest land is at risk from land transfer schemes in the Infrastructure Bill. Ministers bowed to tremendous pressure from Jan Royall and peers from all sides of the Lords Chamber, HOOF, Save Our Woods, 38 Degrees and others.


Baroness Kramer, Minister for Transport, told Parliament:


"The amendments prevent the transfer of any land held by the Secretary of State that has been acquired - remember, this is government owned land - or is treated as having been acquired under Section 39 of the Forestry Act 1967. As I said earlier, that covers all land that is under the management of the forestry commissioners at any given time—whether by freehold or leasehold—and includes any land that is not being used for afforestation but is still under the management of the forestry commissioners or is not being used for purposes connected with forestry.


"The provision is widely drawn. Not only does it include forest waste, it includes the kind of ancillary facilities that many noble Lords have pointed out are necessary. Indeed, there is not even a necessary test: it simply has to be under the management of the Forestry Commissioners. I am sure that that is exactly what the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and the various campaigners were attempting to achieve."

"This was a quiet revolution by men who knew their rights and were determined to get them legally acknowledged and preserved in written evidence so that they could not be overturned again. They were... securing their future, and they knew that had to be done in writing"


These quotes sound as if they were written about the HOOF campaign. In fact they appear in a book by Juliet Barker about the Peasants revolt of 1381. Some things never change!


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


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             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





Wednesday 27th June 2012



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, 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:



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 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.







Four people vying to be the next Forest of Dean MP, and 66 people (at last count) vying to be on the Forest of Dean District Council have signed three pledges to be HOOF Champions if they are elected on May 7.


Click here to see full details on our Blog site


Pledge 1: for public ownership and community accountability

Pledge 2: for adequate public funding

Pledge 3: for Special Status for the Forest of Dean


So HOOF now has 67 candidates standing for council, and four-fifths of those standing for Parliament who have declared they will fight HOOF’s corner on three elements.


You can see the full pledge document here

Sun 11th Jan 2015



A timeline to remind us all of the struggle, setbacks and successes of HOOF and others opposed to the privatisation of our forests, with links to key documents.


A fascinating read as well as an important historical document. Click here

"Tuftorn - A Million Miles From Westminster"

By Doug Eaton. Click to enlarge

Wed 12th Nov 2014

MP's claim he supported Forest campaign is nonsense, says HOOF


In a strongly worded letter to the press, HOOF have refuted Forest MP Mark Harper's claim that he supported HOOF, and was instrumental in getting the public forests exempted from last week's infrastructure bill.


We reproduce the complete press release from HOOF below


"Response to our MP's statement that he understands concerns raised by HOOF and his many constituents regarding land transfer proposals within the Infrastructure Bill and personally intervened:


"At no point in any correspondence or meetings with Hands Off Our Forest did Mark Harper address our concerns that, whatever this Government's intention, the Bill would enable any future government to transfer our Forest land without any Parliamentary scrutiny.


"Mr Harper did not respond publicly or privately to the open letter addressed to him and printed in the local press. In replies to letters sent by parish and town councils, at no point did he address their concerns about the Infrastructure Bill. All he did was repeat statements ministers had already made in public, indicating there was no need for an amendment as the Government's assurances were sufficient. When we said it needed to be written on the face of the Bill, he failed to support us.


"The Government's position remained unchanged until the day before the amendment was debated, as demonstrated in Lord Ahmad's Ministerial Statement. This shows how ineffective our MP was if he did raise the issue with his fellow ministers.


"Our success in persuading the Government to amend the Bill, and the support received from Labour, Crossbench, Bishops, Liberal Democrats and Conservative peers is due to a combination of hard work by Baroness Royall and her colleagues, 38 Degrees, and letters and representations written and made by people in the Forest of Dean and elsewhere, following encouragement by HOOF.


"In the past four years, Mr Harper has given HOOF no support. He could have demonstrated his understanding of his constituents' concerns by arranging an audience with the minister to allow us to voice our concerns without compromising the integrity of his position within the Government. He has never offered to do so."

Posters of the torchlight procession event for downloading as a souvenir of a great night


Tom Cousins has been busy creating some amazing infrastructure bill murals around the Forest.

Click an image to enlarge.



Now incorporating







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


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


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





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


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




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 23rd April 2015

Election Candidates answer Foresters' Questions at HOOF Hustings


On the 22nd April, HOOF held a HOOF Hustings, "Our Forest, My Vote!", to allow the public to quiz their election candidates about their plans for safeguarding the Forest of Dean.


From left to right: Chris Coleman, Liberal Democrat; Rich Daniels, HOOF Chairman; James Greenwood, Green Party; Bishop James Jones, Chairman of the meeting; Steve Parry-Hearn, Labour; and Steve Stanbury, UKIP. The empty chair was reserved for Mark Harper, Conservative, who declined to take part.


The hustings was held at the Forest Theatre, Five Acres College, Coleford and was chaired by the ex Bishop of Liverpool, Bishop James Jones, the chairman of the original independent report into the public forests.


There was much praise for the event and there was especial praise for the organisation and good atmosphere. It was excellently chaired by Bishop James and all the candidates who took part are to be praised for the serious and honest way they conducted themselves.


There will be a full report of the questions and answers published here on the web site and on the HOOF blog here later


Thursday 6th November 2014



Photo by Tina Dorner

400 in protest walk round Mallards Pike lake

Jan Royall's amendment wins concession from Government

Government promises exemption for public forests to be included in infrastructure bill.


View a video of the night, full screen and in HD if you wish.

And another great video of the evening from Ivan Noke and Mike Thomas can be seen here


What a great night! And what a great result! A huge "well done" to everyone involved. It was an amazing spectacle. Your emails to Peers, your petition signings, your lobbying and all the other things you, the powerful people of the Forest of Dean, have done, have secured a famous victory.


ITV news called it a "Victory for Forest of Dean campaigners"

Read about it here.


A transcript of the debate in the House of Lords, in which Jan Royall made an impassioned speech, can be downloaded here.


However - we are not there yet. We must keep up the pressure and be vigilant. We must wait and see exactly what the Government's amendment looks like and keep them to their word.


And of course, they still have not brought in legislation to protect and expand the public forests as recommended by the Bishop of Liverpool's independent panel's report. Watch this space!


Mon 8th Sept 2014


HOOF challenges MP to protect the Forest


Mark Harper MP (right) talks to a HOOF supporter

HOOF have today published an open letter to Mark Harper MP, challenging him to support HOOF, and the people of the Forest of Dean, in their efforts to exempt the Forest from a new privatisation threat.


The Government is introducing legislation that will extend the power of Ministers to transfer ‘surplus’ public land to the Homes and Communities Agency for development. Baroness Jan Royall and other members of the House of Lord's have tabled an amendment that will exempt the Forest of Dean and other public forests from the bill. HOOF is asking our MP to support this.

(See column on left for how YOU can help)


The full text of the letter is reproduced here:


An open letter to Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean (September 8, 2014)


Dear Mr Harper You work hard for your MP's salary. Since your party came to power in 2010 you have had three ministerial jobs, and have rolled up your sleeves and worked tirelessly for the Government.


You and your staff have a good reputation for addressing issues brought to you by individuals at your Friday surgeries. In Parliament, you have intervened at least 10 times regarding cross-border NHS arrangements, an issue which affects 6,000 of your constituents; you have also intervened on behalf of Forest businesses who may have unfair disadvantages compared to incentives offered by the Welsh Assembly to businesses in Monmouthshire; on several occasions you have called for a third Severn Bridge (while arguing that high tolls on the existing crossings are inevitable); you have supported farmers on the issue of bovine TB and culling badgers; you have supported a boar cull; used your Parliamentary position to criticise the Co-op in Cinderford; and also lambasted the elected independent Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl, on two occasions, for raising council tax by two per cent.


But – and this is a huge But – you have failed consistently to address the most fundamental concern of your constituents, the threat to our Forest from sell-off, disposal, transfer or whatever jargon is being used in Government policy and legal documents.


Hands Off Our Forest represents the broadest swathe of your constituents. HOOF is a completely non-party-political organisation, and we would be writing this letter to any MP, of any party, who we felt was letting down his or her constituents by failing to protect the Forest of Dean.


We have had numerous meetings and correspondence with you, calling on you to get behind us all. All we receive in reply from you is a parroting of Government assurances – assurances that our Forest is safe from sell-off, disposal or the 'transfer schemes' involving the Homes and Communities Agency, when you are well aware that these assurances do not measure up to the safeguards identified by the Independent Panel for Forestry as necessary to secure the long-term future of the Public Forest Estate.


You have told us there is no need for an exemption from the Infrastructure Bill as it is not this Government's intention to dispose of the Public Forest Estate in any way. The former forestry minister Jim Paice told the European Union's Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Sub-Committee's Inquiry on Forestry on November 24, 2010, that the Government had a “clearly established” policy “to proceed with... very substantial disposal of the Public Forest Estate, which could go to the extent of all of it”. Bearing this in mind, the assurances given by Baronesses Kramer and Stowell, and you, are insufficient.


We understand the Government's assertion that Parliament cannot bind a future parliament, but the axiom has not prevented the Government from including an exemption for Crown lands within the proposed Section 53A of the Infrastructure Bill. Additionally, this inability to bind future parliaments is no reason to facilitate future actions – including disposals of Public Forest Estate assets – to which your Government is now opposed. In the hands of a future government Clause 21 can be used without the need for primary legislation and proper Parliamentary scrutiny to undermine the Government's stated policy of January 31, 2013 entirely, particularly in the absence of the promised forestry legislation.


It is not just a few of us on the HOOF steering group demanding an exemption in Clause 21 of the Infrastructure Bill for the Public Forest Estate – it is the bulk of your electorate, including people who voted for you in 2010. In the past few months, representatives from HOOF have visited parish and town councils and received overwhelming support. We have handed out thousands of leaflets and again the support has been near universal. From St Briavels to Kempley, Lydney to Ruardean, Coleford to Cinderford, the response has been the same.


There is no excuse for you not to take up this call for an exemption on our behalf – the Forest of Dean Conservatives website clearly states: “Our local MP, Mark Harper, believes that as your elected representative, it is his job to be the voice of the Forest of Dean in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in the Forest of Dean.”


And yet you have failed to support us all every step of the way – unlike your Conservative counterpart in the New Forest, you did not speak in the February 2011 debate on Forestry in Parliament, and you voted for a sell-off, not against as the New Forest MPs did. In 2012, you – like HOOF – welcomed the recommendations of the Independent Panel for Forestry, but you failed to support us in getting these same recommendations implemented in a Forestry Bill. You said nothing when, to our great disappointment, no draft legislation was announced in the Queen's Speech on June 4 this year.


The Infrastructure Bill was introduced to Parliament on the following day. Clauses 21 and 22 – as the Bill is currently written – will allow any public land to be transferred to the Homes & Communities Agency and then passed on to developers, with all rights of access suspended. There are also no given parameters within the legislation detailing which type of developments can take place on 'transferred' public land, and also no distinctions between which types of public land will be included or excluded.


In 1981, when our Forest was under threat of privatisation from Mrs Thatcher's government, our Conservative MP Paul Marland threw his weight behind concerned Foresters. He told Parliament: “We want more than a gentleman's agreement that the Forest of Dean will not be sold off. It is a sad fact that Ministers... come and go, Forestry Commission officials come and go, and Members of Parliament... undoubtedly come and go, so more than a gentleman's agreement is needed to ensure the freedom of the Forest of Dean for future generations.”


Mr Marland helped gain an exemption in the Forestry Act, as he was asked to do by his constitutents. In other words, he did his job as an MP. In 2011, it was revealed how vital it is that definitions of what can and can't be disposed of are written into law when Bircham Wood, near Coleford, was sold to a faceless investment trust fund because the extent of the Forest of Dean was not defined in this same Act.


Therefore it is absolutely essential that the Public Forest Estate as a whole is exempted from Clause 21 of the Infrastructure Bill to ensure all our forest, its outlying woodlands and other public forests in England are protected.


If Baroness Royall can back us – as she is doing so, with help from the Bishop of St Albans and all the support among Lords they can muster, why can't you, as our elected Parliamentary representative, strive to build similar cross-party support for an exemption in the House of Commons?


Do your job, Mr Harper – represent us, your constituents.


Yours sincerely, Hands Off Our Forest Steering Group


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.



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”


Triangle FM

To listen to our very own Forest radio station, click here