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





Click here to see images from the HOOF rally that started it all!


    Archived News Items that have previously appeared on other pages

This page represents a unique history of the entire campaign


To view the full article, click on the heading. Click on the heading again to close.

TORCHLIGHT PROTEST ENDS IN VICTORY! - 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!



The proposed Infrastructure bill is every bit as dangerous to the future of the Forest of Dean as the original Public Bodies bill which we forced the Government to scrap following the "march in the snow" back in 2011




Please lobby members of the House of Lords and urge them to support the amendments that will exempt the public forests from this dangerous bill.


Details of how to do this below:-


Why you must write:

On November 5th, the Lords will again debate crucial amendments to the Infrastructures bill. This bill, if unamended, will give the Secretary of State the power to take land from the Public Forest Estate - including any part of the Forest of Dean - and sell it to developers. If this sounds familiar, it is because it is! It is exactly what the Public Bodies bill proposed back in 2010 and which we all fought so hard to successfully oppose.


Our MP, Mark Harper, has refused to support these vital amendments.


The Government say it is not their intention to take any of the public forests - but worryingly, do not want to enshrine this in law. That is why these amendments are vital.


What to write:

HOOF have prepared a specimen letter you can send which you can download here as a PDF or here as a Word document and copy and paste into an email or letter.


However, we strongly recommend that you alter it to make it personal, it is much more effective. If you make the opening paragraph personal then it will be clear to the recipient straight away that you are writing as an individual and it is not part of a mass mailing.


Who to write to:




There are 777 members of the House of Lords, so don’t try to write to them all!


The best ones to choose would be the Cross Benchers and the Lib Dems. No need to write to the Labour members and no point writing to the Conservatives, as if there is a vote it will be whipped. So write as many as you have time for.


And Baroness Jan Royall tells us that whoever else you write to, it would be good to send one to Lord Greaves.


Go to the official website below where it tells you who is who, their email address and the correct title to address them by. You can of course also write a postal letter, which is more bother to do but is very effective.





"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!


Thurs 30th Oct 2014




We have now received news that it would be well worth writing to the following Lib Dem peers.


Ask them to support Baroness Royall and the Bishop of St Albans' amendment in respect of Clause 21 of the Infrastructure Bill.


Remember, the vote is on the 5th, so lobby them NOW.

Image from mural by Tom Cousins

Lord Phillips of Sudbury (said to be passionate about woodland): phillipsa@parliament.uk

Lord Greaves (supported HOOF in 2011): greavesa@parliament.uk

Baroness Williams of Crosby (Shirley Williams)

millers@parliament.uk (Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer)

Baroness Parminter parminterk@parliament.uk


Torchlit procession around Mallards Pike, from 5.30pm to 7pm..

How amazing this looks is up to everyone taking part. We are hoping people will make lanterns, and banners (luminous ones would be ideal)... and don't forget yellow ribbons... NO FIREWORKS... NO CHINESE OR SKY LANTERNS... we must leave the place as we find it and respect the environment and nature... Dogs welcome (with owners), path is only for pedestrians but cyclists can cycle to the site and park up and walk.


The reason we have chosen Mallards Pike is because it is fully accessible for all, including pushchairs and wheelchairs. The gate to the car park shuts at 7.30pm. Musicians (fully acoustic) welcome... We need more volunteers and people with creative ideas to help, come to the Rising Sun, Moseley Green, 7pm on Tuesday or contact us here...

Spread the word

HOOF challenges MP to protect the Forest - Mon 8th Sept 2014

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

HOOF needs your help urgently! - Mon 21st July 2014


Government introducing legislation that will extend the power of Ministers to transfer ‘surplus’ public land - including public forests


Door will be left wide open for our forest land to be disposed of by any future government


Government refusing to amend the Bill to keep our forests safe


HOOF needs people to send individual emails and letters to members of the House of Lords

Hands Off Our Forest needs your help urgently. 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.


HOOF is encouraging people to help us spread the word and to organise and take part in fundraising and awareness-raising events - which could be a guided walk, bring-and-buy, a concert, or something else. Please email owen@handsoffourforest.org if you can help or if you have any questions.


We need to persuade the Government to insert words within the proposed new law, the Infrastructure Bill, which would confirm our public forests cannot be included in these land-transfer schemes.


So far the Government is refusing to amend the Bill to keep our forests safe.


This means the door will be left wide open for our forest land to be disposed of by any future government if we do not succeed in nipping this in the bud. The House of Lords meets next to consider the Infrastructure Bill in October - our next opportunity to persuade the Government to do the right thing.


HOOF needs people to send individual emails and letters to members of the House of Lords calling on them to “support the amendment which will be tabled by Jan Royall and the Bishop of St Albans in respect of Clause 21 of the Infrastructure Bill at the Third Reading this autumn”. (See column on left for details)


You can also find us on Facebook (Hands Off Our Forest of Dean), and on Twitter @handsoffdean.

The following is paraphrased from an article written by HOOF secretary Owen Adams in the Ecologist. The full article can be read here.

Like the Public Bodies bill, this new Bill is an enabling Bill: economical in its wording with the most far-reaching implications.


In its current form, the Bill allows any public land to be 'transferred' to the governmental Homes and Communities Agency, to developers - with little if any recourse to local planning or public scrutiny and with all restrictions, covenants, rights of way and easements waived. Campaigners have been on the alert for biodiversity offsetting schemes, disagreeing with the idea that a site of natural importance and vitality could be destroyed if it was offset elsewhere. But this Bill doesn't even provide for any mitigation for loss of any sites.


So while the Sunday Telegraph initially spread the word about a forests sell-off in October 2010, this time around it was left to grassroots campaigners to raise the alarm via emails, social media, and a petition set up independently by a concerned HOOF supporter. Within five days it had accrued 25,000 names and despite coverage in only one regional mainstream media outlet, it was clear the Government was rattled on the day of the Bill's first debate on Wednesday June 18. The Government issued a statement claiming that the petition was "wholly untrue", said the Bill only proposed "minor changes" to planning law, and that only "surplus" public land was involved in the transfer scheme.


Lords Adonis and McKenzie articulated many of the concerns raised in the petition, by bloggers and the alternative activists newspaper Schnews, and the end of the debate saw a flustered Minister of Transport, Baroness Kramer, forced into a statement: "I confirm that the Government are committed to England's public forest estate and national parks remaining secure in public ownership for the people who enjoy them and the businesses that depend on them”.


It shows that the ringing of alarm bells and petitioning had an impact - rousing the forests again would be a nightmare for the Coalition just before an election, when their own supporters are opposed to the status quo being upended.


But promises are not enough - the Bill must be substantially amended. Without an exemption for the Public Forest Estate clearly written into the Bill, any assurances are meaningless.


Getting amendments passed during the Committee and Report stages of the Bill, due to start on July 3, is the next objective of forest campaigners.



What's not in the Queen's Speech - Wednesday 4th June 2014


HOOF is disappointed and puzzled that the Queen’s Speech did not include a proposed draft Forestry Bill.

The Government has squandered its final opportunity to introduce legislation to give lasting protection to the Forest of Dean and other woodlands in England, which are enjoyed by 40 million people annually. Our woodlands remain at risk from sell-off and other forms of disposal, including leasings and privatisation of forestry functions and amenities.

Despite acknowledging how much the public value their forests, the Government has reneged on its commitment to plan for a sustainable future of forestry.

The Government has had two years to put into motion the clear recommendations of the appointed Independent Panel for Forestry, which were welcomed by ministers and forest campaigners alike. HOOF hopes the £900,000 spent on the Panel will not be wasted, and its advice will be followed and put into practice by the next Government.

In the immediate future, HOOF calls on the Government to adopt and fully resource the Forestry Commission’s Payment for Ecosystems Services model – a comprehensive audit of all the services the Forestry Commission provides for public, cultural and conservation benefits. HOOF understands £22 million per annum is required from the Treasury, equating to approximately 38p annually per taxpayer, so the Forestry Commission can efficiently and effectively manage our public woodlands. It has also been acknowledged by Government that this £22 million annual funding produces a calculated return of more than £400 million in terms of health, environmental and other quantifiable benefits.

Currently the Forestry Commission’s wealth of expertise in woodland management, especially in combating tree disease, maintaining public amenities, education and training, is increasingly compromised by funding falling short by several million pounds per year. In comparison with other public spending, the amount required from the Treasury is miniscule.

This Government may have failed in its stated intention to pass a law to conserve forests for the benefit of people, nature and the economy – the least it can do is to shore up the Forestry Commission’s work to prevent our forests falling into rack and ruin.

HOOF hopes the next Government concludes the unfinished business of preserving and enhancing public forests as one of its first tasks following its formation in 2015.

Shadow Minister meets HOOF - Thursday 10th April 2014


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.

New law allows sell off of woodlands - Monday 31st March 2014


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".

"Why we must keep fighting" - Monday 17th March 2014


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.

HANDS OFF OUR FOREST! (AGAIN!) - Wednesday 1st January 2014


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!

HOOF submits its document of disquiet to Secretary of State - Monday 23rd September 2013


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

HOOF and Our Forests pressure wins Government concessions, but dangers for safety of public forests remain - Sunday 4th August2013

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

Bishop James unhappy with Government palns for Forests - Sunday 4th August2013

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”

FOREST MAY BE IN PERIL AGAIN! - Wednesday 10th July 2013

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"


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

Here we go again! - Monday 8th July 2013

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 at the moment it looks like it is going to blow 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.

A HUGE THANK YOU! - Sunday 10th February 2013

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


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

  • Independent panel's report broadly accepted
  • Pledge that the English forest estate will remain in public hands and be expanded
  • Independent body to safeguard forests will be created
  • 15% annual sell off policy dumped

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

GET THE ECONOMICS RIGHT! - Wednesday 23rd January 2013

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


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.

Forest campaign groups demand properly funded public forests in England. - Thursday 10th January 2013

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

Forest Campaigns Network (FCN) engages with DEFRA and the Forestry Commission - 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

HOOF's response to the Panel's report - Thursday 13th September 2012

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.




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:

  • Public forests must be kept in public ownership
  • Forests must be expanded and safeguarded by charter
  • Long term planning and financial freedom essential
  • Involvement of local groups must be assured
  • Access to woods to be increased across England
  • Current Forestry Commission duties to be maintained within an evolved Forest Services organisation.

Download it from DEFRA's web site here






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.


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.

A joint statement was agreed between Our Forests, Save Our Woods and HOOF. - Saturday 23rd June 2012
"We believe that public ownership of the Public Forest Estate must be secured, inalienably, 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 stewardship of the Forestry Commission, fully resourced to manage and expand our public forest estate now and in the future"

An open letter from Rich Daniels, chairman of

Hands Off Our Forest


“In a little over a month, Forests across our country will be engaged in the second great battle. July 4 is when the government-appointed panel reports back on the future of forestry in England.


“As we swelter in the recent heatwave, it seems an age since we were
all gathered on the Speech House field in our thousands, during a
snowstorm, to protest against the proposed sell off, or disposal, of
our Forest of Dean, and other forests across England owned by you and
me, the public. In the end, 530,000 more people joined us by signing
a petition, and campaign groups sprung up all over the country to
protect their own woodlands.


“We at HOOF have not been sat back twiddling our thumbs, merely
waiting for the report. HOOF has been submitting our own reports,
making proposals and raising awareness in high places regarding the
special nature and circumstances of the Forest of Dean. The very first
place the panel chose to visit was the Dean, and I know personally
what a profound impact this had on many of the panel members. HOOF has kept in contact with many of those panel members, and indeed with
Bishop James, its chairman.


“Since the panel was set up, other changes have taken place: first, a
significant cut and reorganisation has taken place in the Forestry
Commission. Now with fewer resources and fewer staff, this will result
in an inevitable decline in the service the Forestry Commission has
been providing for us all. That service cost us just 30p per person
before the cuts – what fantastic value!


“Second, one of the most important threats to our Forest comes from
the lifting of sales of up to 15% of the Public Forest Estate. Mrs
Spelman told us that she would only temporarily halt sales until the
panel reported. Now that time is up. Those woods earmarked for sale
before could now be back on the agenda, as all the silver the
Government thinks it can get away with is flogged off. Woods
surrounding the Statutory Forest could now be sold again to the
highest bidder.


“For HOOF supporters the message is clear. Whilst we don’t yet know
the contents of the panel report, we must remain on guard.

“It is essential that those making decisions on the future of our
Forest understand that we will always be here watching, waiting,
insisting that they do the right thing, that our Forests remain in our
hands, managed on our behalf, and by a properly resourced Forestry


“For if they do not, they will be on the wrong end of a Forester,
scorned again... and that is one place they surely do not want to be!”


Rich Daniels, May 28, 2012.

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.

We all know that it was local, on-the-ground, grass routes activism across England that secured the historic" Yew-Turn" on the Government's plans to privatise the English forests. And that it was Foresters from the Dean, turning out in their thousands to March in the snow, that first drew the nation's attention to the threat.


But we must not forget the valuable role that the online petition site 38 Degrees can play in getting our message to a wider audience. It can motivate others to get involved at a local level and thus effect real change.


So we ask that you spare a moment to click the link here and leave a comment on the 38 Degrees OUR FORESTS page:






Click the link below and fill in the Our Forests questionairre to help us better understand what you are thinking:




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.

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.

HOOF WILL FIGHT THEM ON THE BEECHES! - Friday 13th January 2012

An open letter from Rich Daniels, chairman of

Hands Off Our Forest:




“In a little over a month, Forests across our country will be engaged in the second great battle. July 4 is when the government-appointed panel reports back on the future of forestry in England.


“As we swelter in the recent heatwave, it seems an age since we were
all gathered on the Speech House field in our thousands, during a
snowstorm, to protest against the proposed sell off, or disposal, of
our Forest of Dean, and other forests across England owned by you and
me, the public. In the end, 530,000 more people joined us by signing
a petition, and campaign groups sprung up all over the country to
protect their own woodlands.


“We at HOOF have not been sat back twiddling our thumbs, merely
waiting for the report. HOOF has been submitting our own reports,
making proposals and raising awareness in high places regarding the
special nature and circumstances of the Forest of Dean. The very first
place the panel chose to visit was the Dean, and I know personally
what a profound impact this had on many of the panel members. HOOF has kept in contact with many of those panel members, and indeed with
Bishop James, its chairman.


“Since the panel was set up, other changes have taken place: first, a
significant cut and reorganisation has taken place in the Forestry
Commission. Now with fewer resources and fewer staff, this will result
in an inevitable decline in the service the Forestry Commission has
been providing for us all. That service cost us just 30p per person
before the cuts – what fantastic value!


“Second, one of the most important threats to our Forest comes from
the lifting of sales of up to 15% of the Public Forest Estate. Mrs
Spelman told us that she would only temporarily halt sales until the
panel reported. Now that time is up. Those woods earmarked for sale
before could now be back on the agenda, as all the silver the
Government thinks it can get away with is flogged off. Woods
surrounding the Statutory Forest could now be sold again to the
highest bidder.


“For HOOF supporters the message is clear. Whilst we don’t yet know
the contents of the panel report, we must remain on guard.

“It is essential that those making decisions on the future of our
Forest understand that we will always be here watching, waiting,
insisting that they do the right thing, that our Forests remain in our
hands, managed on our behalf, and by a properly resourced Forestry


“For if they do not, they will be on the wrong end of a Forester,
scorned again... and that is one place they surely do not want to be!”


Rich Daniels, May 28, 2012.

Our Forests publishes vision for the future of forests - Friday 13th January 2012

A new 'Domesday Forest’ of more than 1 billion trees


All our  public woods  distanced from the control of ‘Big Government’ and given full and lasting protection for ‘Big Society’ 
A new, independent, publicly accountable body, ‘Forests for England’, with the resources and authority to lead on implementing this vision



Our Forests, the ‘ginger group’ of leading environmentalists, professional foresters and grassroots campaigners set-up in the wake of the Government’s plans to ‘dispose’ of all the 1,500 woods that make up the Public Forest Estate, is publishing its vision for a future where all England’s woods and forests are recognised collectively as a vital strategic economic and social resource.


Read the full press release, including statements from Our Forests chairman Jonathon Porrit and HOOF's own Rich Daniels here


Or download the full colour, printable, document "A Vision for England's Woods and Forests" here.





Forestry Panel interim report now published - 9th December 2011

The Independent Panel on Forestry published their interim report on Thursday 8th of December.



Download the report here


Or visit DEFRA's website:



The make up of the Forestry Panel to report on the future of English forests is as follows:


The Right Reverend James Jones - Chair

Shireen Chambers (Institute of Chartered Foresters)

Dr Mike Clarke (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

Tom Franklin (Ramblers)

Stuart Goodall (Confederation of Forest Industries)

Stephanie Hilborne OBE (Wildlife Trusts)

Sue Holden (Woodland Trust)

Dr Alan Knight OBE (Single Planet Living)

Dame Fiona Reynolds (National Trust)

Sir Harry Studholme (Forestry Commissioner)

John Varley (Clinton Devon Estates)

William Worsley (Country Land and Business Association)


Full details of the independent panel, including its remit and biographies of its members can be found on the DEFRA web site here




Independent Forestry Panel interim report: - 9th December 2011

- England's forests should be expanded

- Forestry Commission represents very good

value for money


Members of the panel visiting a working mine with our own

Rich Daniels (second from right)


The Independent Panel on Forestry published their interim report on 8th of December.


While the broad ranging report made no recommendations - we will have to wait for the Spring and the full report - it did give cause for cautious optimism in that the panel recognises the inestimable value of our forests to the public , believes they should be increased and expanded, and acknowledges the tremendous value for money the Forestry Commission provides.


The reports says, "The panel wants to see a more wooded landscape in England and believes that both the benefits and the costs of forests have been underestimated"


Regarding public ownership of the forests and the Forestry Commission, the panel says, "...we want to make an important point upfront. The net public expenditure on the public forest estate, some £20 million this year, appears very modest and delivers benefits far in excess of this. This level of funding is small in government terms and, to us, appears to represent very good value for money. For comparison, £250million was recently allocated by the Department for Communities and Local government to support weekly refuse collections".


Click below to download the full report in pdf format.



HOOF Secretary elected Verderer - 29th November 2011

HOOF Secretary elected Verderer


Ian Standing, the secretary of HOOF, has been elected to the ancient post of Verderer in an election held in Gloucester Cathedral on Tuesday 29th November


Ian Standing makes his speech of acceptance after taking the oath of office


In an ancient ceremony that dates back centuries, Ian Standing was elected Verderer, following the vacancy left by the death of A M R Watts.


There were two candidates, Ian, and Mr R Guest. By custom, only owners of freehold property living in Gloucestershire (but not in Gloucester) are eligible to vote in this election, which was decided by a show of hands, 132 to 183. Held in Gloucester Cathedral for the first time, the elections attracted a full house.


Read the full transcript of Ian's speech here


Read more about the Verderers on their website here


HOOF is One Year Old! - 7th November 2011

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.

Dig For Victory (cartoon) - 7th November 2011

Legendary Forest cartoonist BAZ has drawn this cartoon specially for HOOF

Click on image to enlarge

Government refuses to answer Freedom of Information request - 6th October 2011

Our Forests to register a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

Despite telling Our Forests “we will be able to sort this out fairly quickly” , 3 months and 2 missed two deadlines later there has been no response from the government to our request for information regarding the forests disposal proposal (see earlier article below).



Jonathon Porrit, founder member of Our Forests, talking at the HOOF rally earlier this year.


Under the Freedom of Information legislation, a response could have been expected no later than 20 working days following our submission - that would have been Monday, 5th September. However, officials extended the timeline on the grounds of the claimed ‘complexity’ of our questions to the maximum permissible of a further 20 days. That means we should have received an official response by Monday, 3rd October.


Jonathon Porritt, founder member of Our Forests said,


“Our questions were straightforward. Earlier in the year, over half a million people rose up in protest at the Government’s proposals to dispose of all the public woods and forests managed by the Forestry Commission. We simply asked which organisations or other bodies the Government and its officials had met with to discuss taking on some of those public woods and forests. We also asked how much it costs the Forestry Commission to look after them as they currently do, delivering the wide range of benefits not just to the millions of people who visit the sites each year, but to society generally.


Nothing has been forthcoming. Therefore, Our Forests is putting in a complaint to the Information Commissioner’s Office.


Our Forests has sent a press release to the media and the full version can be read here or by going to Our Forests web site here

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

11th August 2011

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.

Our Forests quiz government over "secret" talks with charities - 6th August 2011

Concern grows that secret talks may have taken place between DEFRA and the heads of three major charities who sit on the Independent Panel on Forestry.


Our Forests, of which HOOF chair and freeminer Rich Daniels is a member, has submitted a Freedom Of Information request to the Government asking for details of meetings Defra officials have held with organisations such as the RSPB, Woodland Trust and National Trust.


The heads of all three NGOs sit on the Independent Panel on Forestry, and HOOF believes that if they have in fact been in secret talks with the government, this would compromise the independence of the panel.


In a statement, Our Forests said: "Our Forests believe that it is in the public interest for those organisations represented on the Independent Panel to declare publicly what their positions were and are regarding those bodies potentially taking on areas of public wood and forest land. Any past, present or potentially future conflict of interest needs to be out in the open."

Forest Ship - a poem by Maggie Clutterbuck - November 2011



Forest Ship

This excellent poem by Liz Morgan was read at The Faddie by Maggie Clutterbuck

I be one of them Vorest ship,
And a story I've ta tell,
I reside at Speech House 'oods,
Ya know, them ones them tried ta sell.
" What bist tha gunna do old butty? "
Me mates all bleeted ta me,
"With all thic Vorest being fenced off
No roaming fur us u'll see."
Then along comes awld Richie bwoy
And all his merry mun,
Them put up a fight and saw um off
Them wunt come here agun.
Sa dus'ent wurry thee yuds ta much,
A lesson them ad ta learn.
Them got tha message loud and clear.
And when and done a u-turn.
I think it's zummet ta do with Hoof,
Whatever thic da mean,
I zin a placard up tha road
T'was handy fa me ta lean.
So I bist gunna have me a kip,
Among the ferns and twine,
Or I might decide ta lie in road,
I'm free, tha choice is mine.


The BIg Forest Picnic" Saturday 20th August 2011



The Big Forest Picnic


Saturday 20th August 2011


A WWF event to celebrate forests worldwide


The HOOF Big Forest Picnic

will be held at

Beechenhurst Lodge

from 11.30 am.


Bring your own picnic


There will be a HOOF exhibition and an update on what is happening with the HOOF campaign.


Come and celebrate our beautiful Forest of dean


Download a Big Forest Picnic poster here

Excellent response to HOOF's request for your views to the Independent Panel - 11th August 2011

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.

Warren James re-enactment enthralls members of Forestry Commission Monday 13th June 2011


Warren James riots re-enactment enthralls members of Forestry Panel


On Sunday a small but enthusiastic audience witnessed a humorous re-enactment of the 1831 Warren James riots.


L to R: Roger Drury, Dave Morris and Pete Dunford


The re-enactment, originally to be staged outdoors but due to heavy rain held in Speech House, was written and performed by members of the Warren James Group.


Among the audience were some members of the Independent Panel on Forestry who had arrived early for their evening meeting with Forest of Dean “stakeholders” and other representatives, including members of Hands off our Forest.


They clearly enjoyed the entertainment as the audience cheered Warren James, hissed Edward Machen, the deputy surveyor sent to read them the Riot Act, and sang the Billy Bragg version of This Land Is Your Land.


Ian Wright, who read an account of the riots said: “This is more than just a history lesson. It is important to remember the riots of 1831 because the parallels with today are remarkable. Foresters have always resisted the enclosure of their forest, and the latest attempt by the Government to dispose of all of England’s forests into private hands shows that constant vigilance is needed to preserve the Dean’s hard-won heritage.”


Read a short history of the 1831 riots here

HOOF CD NOW AVAILABLE! - Monday 13th June


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.

Huge majority oppose England forest sell-off, poll finds - Wednesday 1st June 2011

YouGov poll finds 84% of British public agree that woods and forests should be kept in public ownership for future generations.

Read the full article here

Save our forests, say celebrities and leading figures - Wednesday 1st June 2011
In a letter published in The Sunday Telegraph and signed by almost 100 dignitaries, the Coalition sale is branded as “unconscionable” and “ill-conceived”. Read the full story here

Cycling and rambling groups want forests to stay in public ownwership -

Wednesday 1st June 2011

Continued public ownership is the only way to safeguard England's largest off road family cycle network now and for generations to come says CTC. Read full article here
Forestry Panel want your viewsWednesday 1st June 2011


Forestry Panel wants YOUR views!


Forest campaign puts Forest of Dean first on panel's list


hands off our forest photo of bishop of liverpool

Chair of the Forestry Panel The Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev James Jones


"We will represent the views we hear - that's what we have been asked to do," says panel chairman, the Bishop of Liverpool.


The Bishop said:


"The panel was unanimous that we should make the Forest of Dean our first visit, as we have received so many invitations. We realise its tremendous natural and

cultural heritage, and that local people have been active on forest issues for many years."


When the Environment Minister, Caroline Spelman, announced the humiliating Government climbdown over their plans to privatise the English forests - thanks mainly to the pioneering campaign of the people of the Forest of Dean - she also announced the setting up of an independent panel to report on the future of our forests.


That panel has now formed (see below) and their very first port of call is the Forest of Dean on 13th June..


The panel are asking for the opinions of the public, and HOOF, along with the Forester and Review are starting a campaign to ask that you, the residents of the Forest of Dean, send in your views to the panel, preferably before they visit on the 13th June.


The panel has formulated 5 questions that they would like the public to answer. For details how to do this see the box on the left. It only takes a few minutes and could make all the difference to the panel's decisions.


HOOF's own Owen Adams has an excellent interview with the Bishop regarding the panel's visit in the Forester - click here to read the full article (previously published in the Forester).


The Forestry Panel


The make up of the Forestry Panel to report on the future of English forests is as follows:


The Right Reverend James Jones - Chair

Shireen Chambers (Institute of Chartered Foresters)

Dr Mike Clarke (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds)

Tom Franklin (Ramblers)

Stuart Goodall (Confederation of Forest Industries)

Stephanie Hilborne OBE (Wildlife Trusts)

Sue Holden (Woodland Trust)

Dr Alan Knight OBE (Single Planet Living)

Dame Fiona Reynolds (National Trust)

Sir Harry Studholme (Forestry Commissioner)

John Varley (Clinton Devon Estates)

William Worsley (Country Land and Business Association)


Full details of the independent panel, including its remit and biographies of its members can be found on the DEFRA web site here



Slimmed down Forestry Commission "Unworkable" Monday 9th May 2011

WORKERS at Bank House say Government proposals to slim down and dismantle parts of the Forestry Commission are “unworkable”.


The Forest of Dean branch of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions (FCTU) hits out at Government plans.


Later this month, Forestry staff will hear how many of its current tasks will be axed or transferred to the private sector, and how many of the 49 based at Coleford’s Bank House will remain, or be transferred to other jobs and locations.

The Government wants to see more commercial ventures within the Forest to add to existing attractions such as Go Ape, and more Forestry Commission visitor facilities to be run by private firms. The consultation document reveals some activities will have to shut down to meet funding cuts – including conservation work - and charges may be introduced for certain attractions that have always been free.

The Forest of Dean branch of the Forestry Commission Trade Unions (FCTU) has hit out at plans by its boss, Defra, in a response to a staff consultation.

The consultation document, called Shaping The Future, assumes the public estate will be smaller in the near future as the Commission prepares to shred up to a third of all its staff in England, and close many of its offices. Bank House administration staff may be moved from Coleford to Worcester, while those on the ground will have to juggle managing the Dean with other forests from Shropshire to Cornwall.

Forestry Commission director-general Tim Rollinson said the Forestry Commission has to forge ahead with its cuts programme, whether or not the public estate remains the same size.

Government’s claim that it can sell any public woodlands should be legally challenged, Hands Off Our Forest campaigners have been advised. Monday 9th May 2011

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh tells HOOF steering group that she has been unable to find the source of the Government’s claim that the existing law allows it to sell up to 15 per cent by 2014.


Hands off our forest

Mary Creagh, Shadow Environment Secretary, meets with HOOF representatives (L to R) Ian Standing, Rich Daniels and Nigel Costley.


At a meeting of HOOF members at Beechenhurst Lodge she requested with theThe figure does not appear in the Forestry Acts 1967 or 1981.

The Labour frontbencher said: “I have come to the conclusion it was a lawyer with his finger in the wind who came up with the 15 per cent figure as being an insubstantial amount of forest. A legal challenge to this is a good idea.”

HOOF is also disputing that the Treasury can benefit from the sale of woodlands, saying the Crown should be the recipient.


Read the full article here

Forest Campaigns' Network says: "WE DEMAND A SEAT ON THE PANEL!" Mon 9th May 2011


Hands off our forests


The first action of the newly formed Forest Campaigns Network has been to send out press releases to all the media explaining its demand for a seat on the Government Panel to determine the future of the public forests of England.


The press release said:

We have yet to hear of anyone with an interest in keeping our forests public being invited on to the panel – that includes our forests’ inhabitants and frequent users, and the half-million-plus people that have campaigned to keep our woods in public hands.

The full press release can be read here.


Hoof Chairman speaks at TUC rally Monday 21st March 2011

Rich Daniels, chairman of HOOF, was invited to speak at Saturday's March for the Alternative rally in Hyde Park organised by the TUC to protest against the government cuts.


hands off our forest

Rich, a freeminer, spoke to the crowd of some 300,000 people about the HOOF campaign and how it was instrumental in bringing about the government's U-turn over disposing of the English public forests.


He began his speech by saying " Not only is the Forest of Dean one of the most beautiful and special places you are ever likely to find but it is populated by a people fiercely independent in mind and spirit".


You can see and hear his full speech here

A wonderful day in the forest Monday 21st March 2011

Thousands of people were out all over the country on Sunday enjoying their forests, taking part in a wide range of activities to celebrate the government dropping their plans to privatise English public forests.


hands off our forest

Baroness Jan Royall (centre) and Bill Hobman, ex Mayor of Lydney (right) were among many at Wenchford on Sunday celebrating their forest

In the Forest of Dean, people of all ages were out across the Forest enjoying the unexpected sunshine, walking, riding bikes and horses or just relaxing by the side of the river at Wenchford with a barbeque.


It was good, after the efforts of everyone in the Dean to see off the threat of disposal, to be able to relax for a while and enjoy the Forest we all love so much. But as HOOF has repeatedly warned, the danger is still there and we must contibue to be vigilant as the government panel deliberates on how best to run them.



Forest Campaigns' Network says: "WE DEMAND A SEAT ON THE PANEL!" Monday 7th March 2011

The first action of the newly formed Forest Campaigns Network has been to send out press releases to all the media explaining its demand for a seat on the Government Panel to determine the future of the public forests of England.


The press release said:

We have yet to hear of anyone with an interest in keeping our forests public being invited on to the panel – that includes our forests’ inhabitants and frequent users, and the half-million-plus people that have campaigned to keep our woods in public hands.

The full press release can be read here.


HOOF hosts first Forest Campaigns' Network meeting Monday 7th March 2011


Hands off our forests


Representatives of forest campaigns from all over England met at Speech House on Saturday 26th February to discuss how best to safeguard our forests in the future. The organisations represented at this historic event were:

  • 38 Degrees (national)
  • Friends of Bourne Wood (Lincolnshire)
  • Save Cannock Chase (Staffordshire)
  • Save Our Forests (national)
  • Save Our Woods (national)
  • Save Sherwood Forest (Nottinghamshire)
  • Hands off our Forest (Gloucestershire)

HOOF campaigners with forest campaign representatives from all over England outside Speech House on Saturday


Hands Off Our Forest chairman Rich Daniels chaired the day of discussions. In his welcome he expressed the need to “re-motivate everyone and tell them what’s going on. One thing that unites us all is the love for our forests. I hope we can start to work more closely together and form a campaign that helps us in the future.”




Among other matters, it was agreed that the Forest Campaigns' Network should:

  • Seek representation on the Panel being set up by the Government, and to protest loudly if our views were not heard.
  • Maintain public interest with a Celebrate Our Forests event on 20th March
  • Campaign to keep the Forestry Commission secure and up to strength

Other forest groups who have joined the Forest Campaigns' Network, but were unable to attend the meeting are:

Friends of Chopwell Wood (Tyne & Wear)

Friends of Hurn’s Forests (Dorset)

Friends of Thetford Forest Park (Norfolk)

Keep Our Forests Public (Sussex)

One Voice (New Forest)

Save Haldon Forest (Devon)

Save Sandlings Forests (Suffolk)

CELEBRATE OUR FORESTS DAY Sunday 20th March 2011

On Sunday 20th March, people all over England will be celebrating their local forest by visiting it and using it.


Whether you walk, cycle, ride, fish, bird-watch, or picnic in the Forest of Dean, get out on Sunday 20th and show how proud we are of our Forest.


There will be BBQs all day at Wenchford.


Cycle events are happening all over the country on the 20th. Here in the Forest of Dean, HOOF are planning:


A Roll In The Woods, with both morning and afternoon bike rides on two circuits – one for mountain bikers, the other for families, leaving Pedalbikeaway (Cannop Cycle Centre) - see below:


Cycling Events at Pedlabikeaway:

  • 1030 – guided Mountain Biking tour of Forest – FREE
  • 1100 – Trail Rides – 10 miles, 4 miles and 2 miles - FREE
  • 1400 – guided Mountain Biking tour of Forest – FREE
  • 1430 – Trail Rides – 10 miles, 4 miles and 2 miles - FREE
  • All Day – Trail Rides - FREE
  • All Day – Prizes for anyone in Fancy Dress
  • Bike Hire
  • Café Open
  • Picnic at Wenchford (Blakeney Straits) All day – bring food
  • Wear yellow
The Last Sign Comes Down Saturday 19th February 2011



Watched by a jubiliant crowd, Baroness Jan Royall removes the last Hands off our Forest sign at Speech House today in a symbolic act to mark the government's complete "yew-turn" on forest disposals and the Public Bodies bill.


HOOF has always pledged that when the Forest was safe we would remove all the signs and yellow ribbons and return the Forest to its natural beauty.


The Forest may not be completely out of the woods yet, so to speak, as the HOOF statement printed below explains, but for the time being at least the threat to dispose of our Forest and all the other publicly owned forests of England has been removed.


Rest assured that HOOF is continuing and that this web site will still be here to bring you all the latest developments. As a contributor to the comments pages reminds us, "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"

VICTORY! Thursday 17th February 2011


Cameron orders complete U turn


Forestry clauses in the Public Bodies bill to be removed


Consultation will be halted


Forestry minister Caroline Spelman forced into climb-down by Downing Street.



The prime minister has ordered Spelman to:

End the consultation on plans to dispose of the land in England run by the Forestry Commission


Drop clauses in the public bodies bill that would allow the government to sell off all of England's forests.


Establish an independent panel with environmentalists to reach consensus on reforms to improve access and biodiversity in forests.

In a move that has humilated minister Caroline Spelman - and left our local MP Mark Harper out on a limb - the Prime Minister David Cameron is ordering that the policy to dispose of English forests to private enterprise and charities must be dropped.


A No 10 insider said: "It's a cock-up. We just did not think."


The process started yesterday in the House of Commons during Prime Ministers questions when David Cameron, in reply to the question from oppositon leader Ed Milliband "Are you happy with your flagship policy on forestry" answered "The short answer to that is – no,"


Then, at 12.30pm today, environment minister Caroline Spelman read to the house of commons the statement we had all been hoping for - that the Government's ill conceived forestry policy would be dropped.


HOOF statement Thursday 17th February 2011


For the Forest of Dean, this is the third time in 30 years that we have had to fight and win this battle.


Naturally, we are pleased with the latest developments but we do not think this is the end.


We will press on to seek a permanent solution for the Forest of Dean, for the future of the wider Public Forest Estate and for the Forestry Commission.


We want proper protection from sale or transfer for all the publicly owned woodland in the Forest of Dean area and West Gloucestershire. The area shown as blue Heritage forest on the Defra map is a step in the right direction.


We also want it managed by the Forestry Commission. We believe that a permanent and positive solution must now be made to define and protect the whole of the public forest estate in England and the expert Forestry Commission staff that manages them. As the public has demonstrated, these woods and forests are regarded as precious public open spaces.


Its now up to the Government to recognise this and come up with positive proposals. Mr Cameron has mentioned the creation of an expert panel to look into things. We ask that some representatives are included from campaigns such as HOOF.

WHOOPS! Thursday 17th February 2011

Caroline Spelman, in her statement to the House of Commons today inadvertantly let slip the government's true attitude to consultation.


Replying to a question asking her why the government had withdrawn the DEFRA consultation document, she said:


"Looking at the early responses, I think it is quite clear members of the public are responding in many cases to what they have read in the press or what they have heard rather than necessarily their understanding of the policy."


So now you know - they didn't like the way the public were filling in their form, so they pulled it!


GOVERNMENT BEGINS CLIMB-DOWN Friday 11th February 2011

The government announced today it wants to "re-examine the criteria" for disposing of England's forests, amid speculation it could herald a wider U-turn.


They said it will not now go ahead with the sell-off of the 15% of state owned Forests that were planned for this year.


This does not mean the end of the forest disposals and certainly not the end of the Public Bodies bill which allows future ministers to dispose of our forests at will; but it does mean, whatever spin may be placed on the announcement, that the huge public outcry against the sell-offs has had an effect.


However, this move by the government to reassure us that the forests will be safe in their hands could be no more than a ploy to mollify the many parliamentary opponents of the Public Bodies bill and to persuade them not to oppose the critical clauses 17-19 which deal with the public forests.




HOOF says:

While it is good news that the sale of part of the forest estate is 'on hold', we must carry on our campaign until we have defeated the forestry clauses in the Public Bodies Bill and ensured the Forestry Commission remains intact.


We must remain vigilant until our Forest is absolutely safe from any future sale, transfer or disposal.


And here is what David Babbs of 38 Degrees said today:

The government have announced they will pause forest sell-offs for a few months. It's a brilliant sign, but our forests are still in danger. If we keep working together, we can save our forests forever - not just for a few months.


The government is still going full steam ahead with changing the law to clear the way for a 100% sell-off. It looks like they hope the fuss will die down if they pause a few sales here and there - so they can press on with quietly scrapping legal protection for our public woodlands.


Prime Minister"Not happy" with Forest disposal bill Wednesday 16th February 2011

In the clearest indication yet that the government are preparing to drop the whole sorry mess that is the bill to dispose of English forests, David Cameron, in answer to the question "Are you happy with your flagship policy on forestry", told parliament during Prime Minister's Question Time that he was not!


He did not elaborate further but there is every indication that the government are planning to drop the bill in the near future.


"The question is not whether they're going to U-turn," one Conservative backbencher told a political commentator , "but how they're going to do it"

Source - Politics.co.uk


But a spokesperson for HOOF warned against complacency:

"The fight is by no means over - only by keeping up the pressure to maintain our Forest in national control under an unchanged and viable Forestry Commission can we be sure of defeating this destructive policy".

Content 35

hands off our forestIn a shock move yesterday, the government ordered the Forestry Commission to take down all signs on Forestry Commission land critical of their policy to dispose of the English Forests - including the Forest of Dean.


To avoid putting Forestry workers in an embarrassing position, HOOF has decide they will remove the signs that are on Forestry land themselves over the next day or two.




As far as we know there has been no such order regarding the yellow ribbons.


Signs are still available for you to put up as long as they are on private property with the permission of the owner or on roadside verges not part of Forestry land.


This heavy handed move, together with the news that his own prime minister no longer supports him (see right) can only further deepen the embarrassment that our MP Mark Harper must be feeling now about his calamatious campaign to dispose of the Forest of Dean to charity.

More than half Tory members oppose forest sell-off Sunday 13th February 2011

...while charities turn their backs on chance to run forests

Read the full story in the Telegraph here


NEW UPDATED Q & A Tuesday 8th February 2011


Get up to date with the latest developments here


Flawed consultation challenged; HOOF targets public bodies bill Tuesday 8th February 2011


Read the full HOOF statement here


VIDEO OF FRIDAY'S MEETING By Mike Thomas 5th February 2011


Click here

Note: it is possible to see all 4 parts of the meeting by clicking on the Newer button to the right of the video.

The Forester's video can be seen here


"Why you wouldn't want to be Mark Harper MP"


Jonathon Porrit, Co-Founder and Programme Director of Forum for the Future, makes it clear why our MP has got it hopelessly wrong in his bid to sell off our Forest. Read it here.


And also read a great article by Jonathon about the privatisation of our forests here


Max Hastings writing in the Daily Mail

"Ministers have bungled the politics [of the Public Bodies bill, probably irretrievably. They have so many more important fights on their hands that they are crazy to expend precious political capital for a negligible economic gain, and perhaps none at all. If David Cameron is smart, he will get out of the woods quickly"

Former Conservative MEP blasts forest sell off Friday 4th February

The Government's plans to sell off England's forests are a disaster in the making says Stanley Johnson.

Read the full story here


Forest MP flees angry constituents Friday 4th February

A crowd of over 250 people who had waited outside in the wind and the rain for over 2 hours hoping to hear Mark Harper MP talk about the disposal of the Forest of Dean, shouted “Mark Harper out” as he was smuggled out of the back way of the building into a waiting police van at the end of the meeting.


Locked-out constituents waiting quietly for Mr Harper to appear


HOOF had earlier written to Mr Harper and warned him that the venue was too small and the 24 hours notice given too short and urged him to rearrange the meeting properly, but he went ahead, with chaotic results.


The external PA system that had been promised was not functioning, leaving those who were not allowed in to the meeting room frustrated and unable to participate in what Mark Harper called “The first step in a consultation process”.


Had Mr Harper gone outside to talk to the crowd and apologise he might have gained some respect, but he chose not to.


During a Radio Gloucester phone-in on Saturday morning, Mark Harper said that he was upset at the "violent" crowd outside but no one we can find witnessed any violence apart from an egg thrown at a van. One of the audience locked out of the meeting, James Greenwood, told HOOF:


"To describe those of us who couldn't get in last night due to his incompetence as 'violent' is absolutely outrageous - and a lie. I was in the wet and cold for 2 and a half hours along with 250+ others, waiting for some kind of apology or statement, which never came. The man certainly seems to lack 'connection' skills".


Inside the stiflingly hot room, Mr Harper remained impassive, calmly answering the audience’s questions.


He began the evening by saying he had come to the meeting to tell us that the government had decided to hand over the Forest of Dean and other “Heritage” forests to charitable trusts. He said that there was no option to sell it off into private hands and that if the charity option was rejected by a large enough number of people it would stay in state control. He said this was the first step in a consultation process that would last for 3 months.


Mr Harper said the consultation document published by DEFRA would give everyone the chance to tell him what they wanted for the Forest.


However, questions from the audience made it clear that many people think the consultation paper is badly drawn up as it does not give options to select the status quo – keeping it in state control and managed by the Forestry Commission.


As the 2 hour meeting progressed it became clear from the thoughtful, knowledgeable and often impassioned questions from the audience, that everyone present was against turning the Forest into a charity. And in an informal show of hands at the end of the meeting to the question, “Do you want the Forest of Dean to remain with the Forestry Commission” every member of the audience raised their hand.


Questioner after questioner was applauded as they made their points critical of their MP’s stance; but the largest ovation of the night was saved for the last questioner, Rich Daniels, chairman of HOOF, who,although ignored by the chairman throughout the meeting, was able to speak by virtue of another member of the audience giving him his turn. He roundly condemned the shambolic organisation of the meeting and powerfully made the case for keeping the Forest in the hands of the Forestry Commission.


Although the government’s position still leaves a lot to be desired, especially for those other forests not designated as “Heritage”, it is clear that the pressure from HOOF and Foresters in general, and other organisations in the country, have forced the government into a considerable climb-down.


Somebody who was outside the library building on Friday evening has sent the following to HOOF:


A quick story about how violent it was on Friday: A local lad, one of the 300 locked out, had nipped home and picked up some cardboard tubes to make a telescopic arm to get a message to the second-floor windows of the meeting. Absolutely total Forest ingenuity.


Someone had a roll of tape, and there was a placard immediately to hand. Up it went in minutes. As the pole wasn't quite long enough to appear above those at the back, somebody jumped up onto my shoulders.


At the bottom of the wall and at my feet was a drain filled with gravel - and after looking at it for a while, I remembered the traditional way to attract attention to the ground from an upper story window. When I suggested to several people that we tap some of this gravel up onto the windows of the meeting, everybody, every single one, thought that was a step too far and totally out of the question.


Harper wasted police time and our time, by not organising the event properly. We ran after him, because we were trying to talk to him - and he was running away out of the back door! The stupid thing from Harper's point of view is that half the people outside probably voted for him. Hope this non-issue won't detract from the debate.


Another constituent who was there has written to HOOF:


I was there hoping to see him emerge from his extended meeting to address the sad souls who had hoped to hear him that night, who had waited two and a half hours in wind and rain, who on the whole were very cold and patient, apologise for so mis-managing and under-estimating the local interest that his "consultation" would have.... !!


He was our MP, we are constituents, I was surrounded by foresters, many of them , the majority, were grey haired and , amongst them pillars of the community. from whom did he require police protection ?


He should have have come out of the front door to us, like a grown-up politician. There was a strong notion that he would duck any further encounters with our debate and would probably make for the back entrance, which he chose to do. He did not require police protection.... his silly melodramatic exit from the youth club door for a waiting police van of course provoked a roar and a chase.....There was a lot of noise, but I too would like to know whether eggs were thrown, I did not see any but I was way at the rear. I certainly heard at least two bangs on the van....


I spoke with a number of the police who were at the time at the front of the Main Centre, who were all in a good mood, and commented on the humour and ingenuity of the foresters who were waited frustrated from not hearing their MP speak that night and were denied the opportunity to speak with him.



Singers greet MP with Song Friday 4th February



A group of about 15 HOOF supporters greeted their MP Mark Harper by singing the UK version of This Land is Your Land when he attended his surgery in Lydney prior to his meeting at Coleford Library.


Based on the original Woody Guthrie song, This Land has been given new words by Billy Bragg who has kindly given HOOF permission to use it for their campaign.

Plans to sell off forests makes no sense economically or politically says Times editorial Thursday 3 February

In its main leader the Times slams the Government's plans to sell off our woodlands. The editorial ends:

"Trees are more than timber; they are symbolic of the green and pleasant land we fear to lose....No party should be able to forget this, least of all one that calls itself Conservative".





After careful consideration of the "consultation" document published by DEFRA last week, HOOF have released the following statement:


Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF), the campaign formed to keep our Forest of Dean publicly owned and run, is firmly opposing the Government’s plan to transfer our woodlands from being managed by the Forestry Commission to a charity.


We are resolute in our conviction that no one is better qualified to run our Forest, to protect our unique customs and achieve the balance between a working forest and public amenity, than the Forestry Commission.


While all organisations, including the Forestry Commission, should be seeking improvement, we believe no trust, charity or other organisation, however benevolent, can guarantee the access and freedom of the woods we all enjoy today, nor safeguard the Forest for the future.


The full statement that is being sent to national and local media and other campaign groups can be read here


Viscount Bledisloe slams Forest sell-off...

In a brilliantly argued and passionate letter to the Forester, Rupert Bathurst, Viscount Bledisloe, makes it clear why the disposal of the Forest of Dean would be a disaster. Read the whole article here

"In nearly 40 years of observing government, I have never seen an effort to steal power from Parliament and the public on such a colossal scale," says Prof Tom Burke...

"In nearly 40 years of observing government, I have never seen an effort to steal power from Parliament and the public on such a colossal scale," says Prof Tom Burke, a close adviser to three successive Conservative environment secretaries in the 1990s. The subject of his ire is the Public Bodies Bill, now undergoing a stormy passage in the House of Lords. Read the full article in the Daily Telegraph here


In a shock announcement Mark Harper MP has said in the press today he will be holding a public meeting at 7.00pm in the Main Place (the Library building) Coleford this Friday 4th February. He has always said he will visit us and tell us what the government's plans are in a public meeting - in itself hardly consultation - but to give the people of the Forest only a few hours notice and to hold the meeting in a venue that only holds a few dozen people is not treating us with the respect we deserve. Mark Harper is hardly living up to his promise - which is prominent on his web site - to represent the Forest in Parliament, not represent Parliament in the Forest. Quote from his web site: http://www.markharper.org "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." One HOOF supporter who was told of the meeting today said: "I can understand that Mark Harper is worried by the strength of opposition to the plans to dispose of our forests, but to behave in this way towards his own constituents is shabby" Alan Robertson of HOOF has sent a statement to the press to express his disgust at the way the meeting has been called. Read it here

Forest sell-off "raises risk of calamity" reports The Times Thursday 3 February

Millions of trees will be threatened by disease under the Government's plan to cut Forestry Commission funding and privatise woodland, according to an internal document leaked to The Times. Read more here


Conservative MPs show disquiet with Public Bodies Billl in Commons debate...

Wednesday 2nd February

Read more here
Warren James Group assert right to roam Monday 30th January


On Sunday 30th January a group of determined walkers staged a mass "trespass" in Bircham Wood. Baroness Royall of Blaisdon and Councillor Bruce Hogan joined members of the Warren Jame Group, the radical history society, in a symbolic walk through the recently sold woods.

Full story and more photos here.




Whatever the pros and cons of the consultation document, the big issue is still the Public Bodies bill.


A huge vote of thanks is due to all our supporters who have been brilliant in putting the Government on the ropes and getting them to considerably water down their original sell-off proposals - but we must continue to do everything we can to get the clauses regarding the disposal of forests dropped; or at the very least a continued exemption for the Forest of Dean.

"Consultation" paper says Forest to be given to charitable trusts.
Read the Guardian report here
Forestry sell-off makes no economic sense says Private Eye
The article specifically mentions the Forest of Dean and Mark Harper MP. Read the full article here
Warren James group plan to assert their right to roam 24 January 2011

The Warren James Group are planning a walk to assert their right to roam on Sunday 30th January. There will be a short walk through Bircham Wood, which was recently aquired by new owners.


The organisers have asked that more able bodied people should park down on the Newland Road and walk the 300m up to Bircham Wood. There is only space for parking a few cars near the entrance.


Ian Wright, a member of the Waren James group, wrote the following:


"Come and join us and assert your right to roam in Bircham Wood, Coleford on Sunday 30 Jan 11 am. We plan to take a short walk through the wood to make it clear to the new owner that we believe this is our right.


Until recently Bircham Wood was owned and managed by the Forestry Commission, but was sold to a private owner several weeks ago for approx £160,000. The new owner should have registered their new property with the land registry but has failed to do so. They will not have to pay inheritance tax, capital gains tax or income tax on this investment.


The government is going to lose millions of pounds in tax revenue as a result of any woodland sell off, which over time could exceed the money gained from the woodland assets sold. The wood comes with full shooting rights. Roe and fallow deer are commonly found in the wood. Some of the wood is classified as ancient woodland.


We are planning to meet by the entrance barrier. This can be found by following the Newland road out of Coleford and turning right just pass the whitecliff quarry. OS 1:50,000 Map 162 Ref. SO563101. Dress code - skimmington"

HOOF Cycle Rally 23 January 2011

HOOF cycle rally


The cycle rally organised in the Forest of Dean to protest at the Government’s proposed sell off of English forests attracted over 120 cyclists of all ages on Sunday 23 January




The rally was organised by Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF) campaigner Barbara French who said, “It is so important we make the public aware of this very real threat to the Forest of Dean and indeed all of England’s forests, as cyclists and horse riders will be among the worst hit by any privatisation”.


Rich Daniels, Chairperson of HOOF, told the cyclists that the Public Bodies Bill, clauses 17 -19, currently going through parliament, would give future Government ministers - of whatever party - the power to sell off the forests to private developers.


Although the Forestry Minister, Jim Paice, has tried to reassure the public that rights of way would be protected, he had to admit recently in Parliament that any protection would only apply to walkers, not to cyclists and horse riders.


In any case, say local opponents of the Bill, even walkers in the Forest of Dean cannot be offered protection as virtually none of the paths in the Forest are covered by rights of way legislation but instead are permissions and privileges granted by the Forestry Commission. Under any Forest sell off the Forestry Commission would almost certainly disappear.


The rally began at 12 noon at Pedalabikeaway, who kindly gave permission to use the cycle centre. After a short cycle ride to Cannop the cyclists returned to the cycle centre where national BBC News cameras were waiting to interview some of those taking part. Councillor Bruce Hogan told BBC’s Jeremy Cook that the Forest of Dean is not owned by the Government and so is not theirs to sell - it belongs to the whole country.


The rally comes at the end of a week that sees the Government reeling from a sustained attack on its Bill from many quarters, including celebrities, environmentalists and senior lawyers and constitutionalists.


The House of Lords Constitution Committee recently declared that the Bill "strikes at the very heart of our constitutional system" and Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, said the Bill needs “very careful reconsideration".


Lord Woolf, a former Lord Chief Justice, said the Bill is “of grave concern to the judiciary" and "constitutionally wrong" and The Lords' Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee decided that “The Bill would give ministers unacceptable discretion to rewrite the statute book"


A letter to last Sunday’s Telegraph condemning the Public Bodies Bill was signed by over a hundred famous and influential people including The Archbishop of Canterbury, Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate; Dame Judi Dench, the Oscar-winning actress; and Bill Bryson, the author and president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.


Other signatories to the letter include Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the celebrity chef; Joanna Trollope, the author; Lady Helen Taylor, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, Richard Briers the actor, Lord Rees, the astronomer royal, Tony Juniper who is special adviser to the Prince of Wales’s Rainforests Project, Annie Lennox, the pop singer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the explorer, and authors Michael Frayn and Julian Barnes.


And Save England’s Forests’ president Rachel Johnson, the writer and sister of London mayor Boris Johnson, said: “An extraordinary coalition of the Great and the Good has responded to the Government’s proposals to sell England’s forests”.


Despite all this nation-wide disquiet about the Bill and the threat to the Forest of Dean in particular, our MP Mark Harper still refuses to say when he will visit the Forest and face his constituents to explain his position and listen to their fears.


The cycle rally follows on from the very successful HOOF rally held at the beginning of January when over 3000 people braved the cold and snow to show their disgust at the proposed legislation. Visit www.handsoffourforest.org for more information.

HOOF Campaigners lobby Parliament 17 January 2011

Hands off our Forest campaigners and others from around the country joined Labour's Sir Peter Soulsby MP, DEFRA Select Committee and Green MP Caroline Lucas outside Parliament


See the ITV West Country Tonight report here

Husky Sled Racing supports HOOF 16 January 2011

Husky Sled Racing supports HOOF


There was a HOOF information and letter writing station at the annual husky sled dog rally on Sunday 16th January at Beechenhurst





The organisers of the rally, Wydean Mushers, said:


I think we can safely say that as organisers of sled dog rallies we'd be dead against anything that might affect the access we've been given to use the forest, it is a great example of how the Forestry Commission has worked with a local group to improve access


The HOOF stall was very busy with hundreds of contestants and spectators signing the HOOF petition








Projects to restore ancient woodlands likely to be abandoned 10 January 2011

Dozens of projects to restore ancient woodlands are likely to be abandoned under the Government’s plan to sell most of England’s state-owned forests, The Times has learnt.


The forests are expected to be privatised without any requirement to uphold the Forestry Commission's commitment to replace rows of foreign conifers with native broadleaf trees such as oak, beech, ash and lime.


The commission had planned to restore more than 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) of ancient woodlands which were planted with pine, fir and spruce after the Second World War when timber stocks were low. Conifers create dense shade and inhibit the growth of bluebells, wood anemones and other wildlife found in deciduous woodland. Many of these plantations have reached maturity and are due to be harvested, creating the opportunity to replace them with native trees.


Wyre Forest in Worcestershire has 740ha of conifers which were due to be restored to native woodland. Other sites where restoration is now in jeopardy include Grizedale Forest in the Lake District, Savernake Forest near Marlborough, Wiltshire, Pencarrow Forest near Bodmin, Cornwall, Hempsted Forest in Kent and Mortimer Forest in the Marches.


But Defra is reluctant to reduce the sale value of the forests by adding conditions such as the type of tree that can be planted and whether they can be harvested. Conifers grow three times as fast as some native trees and are more attractive to companies likely to bid for the forests, including suppliers to new wood-burning power stations being built to meet Britain’s carbon reduction targets.

A Whitehall source said a consultation document on the sale, due to be published this month, would ignore the question of restoring ancient woodland. It would contain a commitment to preserve the “public benefits” of existing native woodland but be silent on the commission’s plans to expand them.


The Woodland Trust said the value of each hectare would be cut by a third if any future owner was required to plant native trees. The amount raised from selling the 30,000ha could fall by more than £100 million. But the trust said that the Government should consider the wider benefits of restoring ancient woodland and not just focus on maximising the proceeds.


Sue Holden, the trust’s chief executive, said: “If the Government is determined to be the greenest government ever then it has to find a way to secure the future of the ancient woodland sites planted up with conifers over the last 60 to 70 years, which it currently owns. Ancient woodland is our richest and most fragile habitat, our equivalent of the rainforest. [Selling the sites] with no means of securing their restoration would mean a massive opportunity would be lost, probably for ever.”


Environmental groups are also concerned that new owners might try to discourage people from visiting the forests. Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, there is a permanent right of access on foot to land owned by the commission. But that does not extend to horse riders and cyclists.


The commission is also concerned about the future of its visitor facilities, including 413 car parks, 28 visitor centres and 177 waymarked walks. It fears that future owners will close car parks and other facilities and let trails become overgrown.

Forest of Dean Tourism Association supports HOOF campaign Jan 9 2011

The following letter has been sent by The Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association to the minister responsible for our forests:


The Public Bodies Bill currently being debated in the House of Lords will give the Government (and future governments) the power to sell the whole or parts of the Royal Forest of Dean: Clause 17.


Those of us who live in the Forest oppose the sale as a change of ownership will violate the traditions and privileges we and visitors to the Forest enjoy; it will destroy all that we hold dear about the Forest and will damage the local tourist industry and the local economy.


The Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism Association has 300 members in and around the Forest of Dean and at a recent meeting we unanimously agreed to oppose the proposals affecting the Forest. Tourism is probably the most important industry in the area and the Forestry Commission does an excellent job in managing this unique and historic forest for the benefit of both visitors and residents.


We believe that you should exempt the Forest of Dean (together with those woods described by Lord Mansfield in 1981 as the contiguous woodlands commonly regarded as part of the Forest of Dean, namely, Highmeadow, Clearwell and Hope Woods) from the power of disposal contained in Clause 17 of the Public Bodies Bill.


John Bosley for Committee

Government admits there is a "possibility of established forest being bought by energy companies who would proceed to chip it all for energy recovery" 7 Jan 2011

Read full article in The Independent here

Forestry sell-off makes no economic sense says Private Eye 7 Jan 2011

The article specifically mentions the Forest of Dean and Mark Harper MP.

Read the full article here


Laura Barton's moving article about the HOOF rally in the Guardian 5 January 2011

Read here

Hands off our Forest March and Rally 3rd January 2011 - photos and speeches

An amazing turnout of over 3,000 people braved the cold and snow to take part in the HOOF protest against the privatisation of our Forest.


hands off our forest rally


One protester said "There are even more people here than were at the Save The Dilke rally, a battle which we won".


See a video of the event by Woodrow Morris here


After a walk through the Cyril Hart arboretum the protesters heard impassioned speeches from Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Jonathon Porrit of Forum for the Future, the Bishop of Guildford and many others.


hands off our forest rally

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon "We cannot and we must not allow our Forest to be sold. Don't wait for the consultation that is promised - act now!"



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


Dick Brice, Asha Faria-Vare and other musicians entertained the crowd. The grand finale was the ritual burning of a wooden statue of Big Ben.


hands off our forest rally


There are some great pieces about the rally in The Guardian 4th Jan and 5th Jan plus photos


Nearly £1,000 in donations was raised for HOOF at the rally - thanks everyone for your generosity.


"For reasons I don’t quite understand, Mark Harper has chosen to antagonise his constituents from the very start. He’s attempted to characterise them either as lacking the intellectual wherewithal to understand the essence of the Government’s proposals, or as a ramshackle bunch of ranting lefties". Jonathon Porrit in his blog about the rally. Read it here


There is a YouTube video of some of the rally here

Read excerpts from some of the speeches here

Or hear the speeches at Triangle FM here


Excerpts from the speeches:


Rich Daniels:


“We’re a broad church of people who’ve come together to save our Forest.


“It’s our turn in history to pick up where others have left off to save our Forest.


"What we are not is a political group, and we would oppose any political party that was attempting to sell our Forest.


“The spirit of Warren James is alive and well and is in the Forest today".


Baroness Jan Royall:


“We are here to defend our ancient privileges and customs.


“We’re standing in the middle of a glorious forest that belongs to us. We cannot and must not allow our Forest to be sold.


“We are involved together because we love the Forest. The White Paper might be a very splendid document that contains many safeguards for the Forest of Dean – but it will be too late. Normally the Government publishes a Green Paper and invites consultation before publishing a White Paper. In this case we have a Bill going through Parliament and then a White Paper. I think I’d call this arse over tit. Where was the green paper and where was the consultation? What this topsy-turvy situation means is that no matter what the White Paper may say, the Public Bodies Bill means the Forest of Dean along with all the other forests may be sold – it’s there in black and white. I don’t want to be part of a social or community enterprise owning the Forest, because you and I already own it. I want to thank the 49 employees of the Forestry Commission in Coleford and say we want them to keep their jobs.


“The Countryside Rights of Way Act will not, for example, prevent any landowner from desecrating Dymock daffodils. While I grew up going there regularly, I didn’t realise they are of real significance, as are the oak trees growing there. They must be protected.


"Our Forest is unique, it’s a special case. The canopy of this Forest allows unique ecosystems to flourish and if it were sold and managed in a different way the balance of those fragile ecosystems would be changed to the detriment of the whole. Our Forest is an economic asset, not only in terms of timber but to our local economy. Don’t wait for the consultation that’s promised: act now! We have fantastic support but we need more. I hope our MP Mark Harper will be able to persuade the Government to accept our amendment that I am tabling with the Bishop of Gloucester and Baroness Fritchie, and if he doesn’t I have to ensure the Coalition carries that amendment – that’s why your letters are so important. So get writing to our MP and especially those councillors who didn’t have the balls to sign up to that resolution from Andrew Gardiner, which was adopted at the last council meeting. I need to be able to demonstrate to the Government that the campaign to keep the Forest in public ownership is serious and got massive public support, as we can see today. Go for it, and campaign, and we will win”.


Jonathon Porritt:


“I feel honoured to be invited here to support the Forest and to ensure the Government’s irresponsible, insane plans do not go ahead.


"Do not be seduced by the siren words of Mark Harper, the forestry minister, or anyone else in this Government when they tell you everything will be alright once you get to see the White Paper. That is just a whole farrago of lies, lies and lies.


"We know what the intention of this Government is – they’ve made it very clear. They would like to see as much of the public forests estate as possible sold off into private hands as fast as possible, with as speedy a receipt coming back to the Treasury as possible.


"Every time they talk about forestry they mention the civil society and Big Society in the same breath. We know that this idea of selling off little packets of land to voluntary and community groups makes no sense whatsoever. The Forest of Dean is a whole, an entity in itself, a living, breathing organism which you can’t just parcel off into little bits and expect that those in charge of managing those little bits will understand the value of the whole. It is extraordinary that we have a Government that still doesn’t understand the basics of land management at that very fundamental level.


"We don’t have any basis on which to trust anything we hear from this Government at the moment. This kind of rally and expression of public anger is a way of showing Mark Harper and his Government that they shall not move forward with this proposal.


"The fuel protests of 2000 serious destabilised the Labour Government at that time – I didn’t support those protests but that was a defining moment. Maybe this is a defining moment: the point at which people say this is not right, this is not the way to proceed


"If this campaign in the Forest of Dean becomes the symbol of rethinking what we want from our Government, it’ll be a great deal more powerful than what Mark Harper and his colleagues currently believe


"I just feel very empowered to be part of this. I’ve spent 35 years of my life campaigning for one cause or another, some unwinnable and some winnable. All I know is this is a campaign that has at its heart the integrity and spirit of a massively powerful group of people which will undoubtedly win the day. All power to all of our elbows!”


Dick Brice:


“Our elected representative in London is our elected representative. Foresters are decent, kindly and generous but they have one fault: they do bear grudges, and Mark Harper had better bear that in mind.”


Ian Waddell, Unite's national rural officer:


“The 49 Forestry Commission workers have had a very uncertain and difficult time over Christmas and New Year.


"It’s quite clear that the clauses in the Public Bodies Bill are about selling the whole of the public forestry estate. The Forestry Commission doesn’t need to be sold off, it needs to be strengthened and expanded.


"The Government must be held to account. One thing is clear, we need to turn our anger and outrage into action.


"The Government is vulnerable: we want Mark Harper to be the first MP to be recalled when the recall law is passed. The Government is weak, and this campaign is about hanging on to the Forest for our children and our children’s children. we can win – we will win".


Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Reverend Christopher Hill, who has lived in Ruardean for four years:


"All the arguments used by Lord McNair in the 1981 debate are still relevant today. The Government of the day changed its mind and said the Forest of Dean is unique and should not be sold, and that’s why I will be supporting Baroness Royall’s amendment.


"The Forest of Dean has had its ups and downs. At least twice in the past 400 years the Forest has almost been destroyed because of individualistic, uncontrolled economic forces. The likelihood of individual parcels of the Forest being sold off is very high if the Public Bodies Bill goes through unamended. We need to support this campaign so the Forest can go on for another 400 years and more.”


Eric Morris, Freeminers' Association:


“The representative in Parliament we have now doesn’t respect freeminers. If you want to keep freemining and any other custom, go against this sell-off.”


Henry Mills, Commoners' Association:


"I'm very pleased to see so many people here supporting this campaign."


Forest musicians get together to make album of protest 3 January 2011

Dick Brice

Asha Faria-Vare

Mike Edwards

Bob Smith

Max Fisher


The five artists pictured are playing the January 3 rally and all are contributing tracks for a HOOF fundraising CD.


Mike Edwards, who is co-ordinating the album of protest songs said:


"I see the HOOF campaign as a pivotal point in the Forest’s long and chequered history.


If we, the musicians, artists and ordinary people of the Forest can make politicians and big business sit up and take notice of our collective opinion, then we’re actually being what the Coalition Government wants us to be – A Big Society, not scared to voice our views and have a say in the issues of our time.


The CD album will be varied in musical styles, but it will carry an important message – that we cannot afford to lose the land in which we live to commercial exploitation, at the cost of our quality of life.


I sincerely hope that Mark Harper buys a copy and listens carefully to every word and note on it."































Mark Harper MP walks into trust me row... 30 December 2011

Below we reproduce the press release that Mark Harper has just released together with angry reaction from Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Nigel Costley of HOOF and Owen Adams, journalist.


Mark Harper, MP for the Forest of Dean, speaking ahead of a planned HOOF rally in the Forest of Dean on 3rd January said:


“Early in the New Year the Government will publish its plans for the public forest estate including the Forest of Dean. I have discussed this issue with the Forestry Minister and he is very clear about the importance of protecting the Forest of Dean. Neither I, nor the Government, have any intention of doing anything that would damage our Forest. I am confident that the plans set out in the White Paper will properly protect the Forest of Dean.


However, I am not surprised that the political opponents of me, my party and the coalition Government refuse to accept or believe the clear assurances that I have given on the contents of the White Paper and the Government’s plans for the Forest of Dean.


Much of the speculation in the media is simply not true. For example, there are not and never have been any plans to sell off the Forest of Dean to developers who would cut down the Forest to replace it with recreation parks. All that has ever been proposed is whether a local not for profit organisation, a charitable trust say, might be able to involve local people more closely in the ownership or management of the Forest of Dean. I think that is at least worth looking at.”


In reply, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, Labour leader of the House of Lords, writes:


Both Mark and the Minister might be clear about their plans for the Forest but (a) they have not told us, (b) they have not consulted on them and (c) this is not what is said in the Public Bodies Bill which will enable the selling off of the Forest of Dean.


They should have published the White Paper and had a consultation BEFORE legislation was introduced to Parliament. Everything the Minister has said about forestry points to the fact that he wants to sell them off.


Notwithstanding this statement, we have to seek amendment to the Public Bodies Bill in order to ensure the protection of our Forest. If Mark is sensible, he will ensure that the Government accepts the amendments that I am tabling together with the Bishop and Rennie Fritchie. He could then take some credit for having persuaded the Governmentt of our case.


The key point is that proposals in a White Paper are not law: the Public Bodies Bill will be the law when it gets Royal assent.


Owen Adams writes:


Mark Harper deliberately misses the whole point. I don't recall the media (well us in the Forest anyway) have ever speculated the Forest would be cut down to make way for recreation parks. And as we can see from the leaked draft consultation document, a not-for-profit company is NOT all that's been proposed - there are five options...


Finally, he seems to be ignoring that out of the thousands of people who are supporting our campaign, some of them voted for him...


Nigel Costley, Regional Secretary, South West TUC and HOOF officer writes:


Mark Harper and the local Conservatives ask that we ignore the clear statements of intent by ministers to sell-off the forest and to trust that it will be alright in the end! Diana Edwards, Tory Deputy Leader of the Forest of Dean Council seems hardly convinced herself when she says: “If it is the case that it won’t be protected, Foresters can rest assured we will do everything we can to take action. But we have had the assurance of our MP Mark Harper and I’m sure he knows what he is talking about.


” Oh well, that’s ok then!


Faith in the local Conservatives was hardly bolstered when their local leader, Peter Amos said: “It doesn’t matter who owns it as long as it stays in public ownership.”


With the Public Bodies Bill going through Parliament now, we are asked to trust in a White Paper that will set out a range of options for the future of the Forest. None of them will adequately safeguard the Forest of Dean as it is now. All of them signal the end of publicly owned and managed forests.


It will be 50 ways to leave your lover when we haven’t even fallen out! ‘None of the above’ will not be on the list and such an option will only be achieved by amending the Public Bodies Bill now.


The Government’s approach is based upon the premise that public ownership of our woodlands is bad – despite all the evidence to the contrary. So how can we trust our local MP who has so far handled this issue so badly.


It remains unclear how the government will determine which options for which forests will be applied. The break-up of the national estate will mean that the more profitable forests will be sold leaving the rest even more dependent upon subsidy or even more at risk from measures to cut costs.


Even Mark Harper realises that talking about privatising the Forest is political suicide so instead we are presented with the option of a transfer to a community interest body or a ‘not-for-profit’ business. But these will still have to cover their costs. Not-for-profit is also Not-for-loss. The only way to balance the books will be more commercial activities, big hikes in fees and charges alongside cuts in woodland management.


I am a keen supporter of social enterprise and mutual alternatives to private business. But under the Conservatives, there has been a cynical distortion of their values to privatise public services. Once transferred out of public ownership there is no way back. As we are witnessing in the NHS, many of these bodies seem almost set-up to fail. When they do, the next inevitable step is into corporate ownership.


If Mark Harper thinks we are going to see his promised White Paper and wonder what all the fuss was about he is mistaken. If he thinks the Forest community are going to trust some vague assurances wrapped up in the twisted use of language he does not understand the voters of the Forest of Dean.


Hands off our Forest. It must remain in public ownership and management.

For sale: all of our forests. Guardian article 22 December 2011

"Not some of them, nor most of them – the whole lot"

The Guardian Environment blog thinks the plans to sell off all state-owned forests are unwarranted, unwanted and unworkable - read it here


Proof of Forest sell-off found in Hansard - Owen Adams reports 10 December 2011

Anyone who claims there is no proof of sell-off plans and we should relax, sit back and "wait and see" only needs to be referred to the evidence given by Minister Jim Paice... here are some excerpts from Hansard (with the particularly pertinent bits - in my view - in bold):


The Select Committee on Select Committee on the European Union

Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Sub-Committee

Inquiry on


Evidence Session No. 1. Heard in Public. Questions 1 - 33


11 am

Witnesses: Mr Jim Paice, Mr David Howat and Mr Robin Mortimer

JIM PAICE: The Forestry Commission is in the Public Bodies Bill to provide us with the opportunities for changes which, I am more than happy to admit, are not fully formed in our minds. But this is the opportunity to get the legislation because the Forestry Acts are very restrictive. For a start, they require the Forestry Commission to own and manage the public forest estate…


… while we are working on the thought processes as to how to reform the Commission and its landholdings, it is in the Bill as an opportunity to provide the legislative base to make those changes, whatever they may, or may not, be…


On the impact on the Commission, it is clearly a matter for the Commission to adjust its staffing levels, and so on. I need to make it clear that we are not proposing to abolish the Forestry Commission or anything like that. Clearly, however, if we go down the road of significant disposals, that will have an impact in its establishment and how it goes about its work…

… we need to focus the Commission much more on an enabling role and move it away from managing a significant part of the forest estate in England.

We do not have any hard and fast proposals about disposals at this stage. We will be publishing a consultation document in the early part of the new year, when we intend to lay out a range of options. We will by then probably have it down to one or two favoured options, but there will be a range. Obviously, the extremes are, at one end, the total sale of the Commission list as private forestry estate to some other body such as a charitable trust, or whatever. The other extreme is a piecemeal sale over a period of time to the highest bidder of individual parcels of woodland or forest. I do not particularly want to be drawn on the rights and wrongs of any of those options at this stage, because, frankly, we are not at that stage yet.


Lord Cameron of Dillington: As you know, Minister, the Public Bodies Bill is going through this House at the moment. Most of us are slightly mystified by Clauses 17 and 18 on the Forestry Commission. Reading between the lines of what you say, your present intention is to have a disposal of a part, or a considerable part, of the Forestry Commission lands. I would personally not disagree with that. I think a lot of that land would probably be better managed in private hands than public hands. However, you seem to be saying to us legislators, “We are not quite sure what we want to do with the Forestry Commission, but we want you to give us permission to do it anyway”. I find that quite strange. I wonder if you have slightly firmer views as to where you are going here.


Mr Jim Paice MP: Yes, indeed. Part of our policy is clearly established: we wish to proceed with, to correctly use your word, very substantial disposal of public forest estate, which could go to the extent of all of it. As I said earlier, the precise detail of who it will go to and in what form is yet to be decided. However, we are committed to the principle that protecting the range of public benefits–biodiversity, access, carbon fixation–and to achieve the increasing tree cover that I seek does not necessarily require the state to own the forestry. I take this opportunity to emphasise that we have absolutely no intention of reducing any of the protections that exist. Indeed, part of the consultation will be on whether other protections will be necessary. Felling licences will still be in place. All this nonsense we have read about golf courses and holiday camps on the forest is all complete and utter bunkum. It just will not happen.


In order to have substantial disposal, we need to change the law. Our lawyers advise us that up to about 15% of the forest could be sold without risk of transgression of current

legislation, which requires the Commission to own and manage the public estate. To get beyond that, we would need to change the law. That is the reason for it [the Public Bodies Bill].


The Earl of Arran: Following on from Lord Cameron’s question, in the event of the disposal of some of the Forestry Commission land, do you have any worry about foreign purchases?


Mr Jim Paice MP: I have worries about two or three potential aspects of disposal, which we are looking at very carefully. Foreign purchases are one, although I not think that they are automatically necessarily bad. Indeed, we could not prevent them under EU law. I am much more concerned about the possibility of established forest being bought by energy companies who would proceed to chip it all for energy recovery. That is not, in my view, a very good use of prime timber. We will need to look at how we prevent that.

The other aspect that concerns me is the point made by the British processing sector, mainly the saw mills, whereby, although the Forestry Commission has only 18% of English forest land, it comprises the vast bulk of their raw material. They have long-term contracts of supply, and it enables them to continue to process in good times and bad, when, perhaps, the private sector might stop felling when prices are low. I am very conscious that there are issues in our proposals that we are looking to address


The Earl of Dundee: The drift of my question was rather more that, given that there are targets, let us assume that, as custodians, the private sector will deliver and meet them. In the first place, which range of incentives do you think might work best to encourage the private sector to take on Forestry Commission land?


Mr Jim Paice MP: First, all the inquiries I have made suggest that there is ample interest in the private sector to take it on. For a long while, I laboured under the impression that, like the previous Government’s gold sales, if you unloaded them all at once you would end up with a seriously devalued price. I have been disabused of that by a number of different forestry investment operations. They think that it would be possible, if we chose to go down that route, to dispose of the whole thing at a sensible market price. But, as I said, we have not necessarily chosen that route.


Baroness Howarth of Breckland: Following up something you said earlier on this which I do not have clear in my mind, you mentioned a number of issues that were of concern to you; for example, energy companies buying large parts of forests and chipping in order to gain energy. There were one or two other issues that you were passionately concerned about. If there is a lot of interest, are you sure that you will able to avoid those kinds of traps and difficulties to those who are going to buy, particularly in the light of your wish to reduce regulation?


Mr Jim Paice MP: It would be a brave politician who guaranteed anything, but we are determined to do our very best to retain that protection. The chipping issue, which I genuinely feel is a concern, can be addressed.


The Earl of Dundee: If I might just pick up on Lord Carter’s point, if we go along with Sir David Read, who recommended trying to achieve 16% of forestry, let us begin with identifying best practice for incentives for the private sector to afforest, to plant new trees. Then, with the new plan to enable the Forestry Commission to sell off its assets, it follows that the energies of the Forestry Commission can be directed towards afforestation to a far greater extent. If you take these two things, a new vigour in our public body and identifying what works best for our European partners to activate the private sector, perhaps we then have quite a good model for best practice.


Mr Jim Paice MP: I entirely agree with you. I said at the beginning that I see the Forestry Commission becoming much more an enabling body, an exhorting body, if you like, spreading good practice and being much more involved in promoting new planting once it can divest itself of spending too much time managing what it has got.


Lord Lewis of Newnham: Can I ask a final question? You refer to the fact that you are at the moment selling off land to allow for the deficiencies in your budget. When you have sold off all the land, what are you going to do?


Mr Jim Paice MP: The problem is that the Forestry Commission operates in such a way that it either loses or marginally makes profit on its commercial, pure forestry activities, give or take £1 million. When you add in all the other things that it is currently doing–leisure and other things, for example–it ends up with a significant deficit. It has been selling land partially to fund that deficit; some of it has been funded by taxpayers, some from sales. That is not a sustainable approach. We think, and this is one of our objectives in disposal, that there are ways of improving commercial returns and generating more returns from leisure and other, currently unprofitable, activities.

"Woodland Under Threat?" ITV West regional news 10 December 2011

Watch here


Packed Miners Welfare hears pleas to abandon privatisation bill and why the Forest of Dean is a special case. But where was our MP? (Video and audio links at end of article)

On Friday the 10th December a packed Miners Welfare in Ciderford heard passionate speeches condemning the coalition Government's forest privatisation bill from Baroness Jan Royall, labour leader in the House of Lords, Rich Daniels, Chair of HOOF and many members of the audience.


Baroness Royall, Labour leader of the House of Lords, speaking against the privatisation bill to a packed Miners Welfare, Cinderford, on Friday 10th Dec.


Mark Harper, our MP, who is trying to push through the bill, was conspicuous by his absence, although invited to put his side of things some weeks ago. He pleaded a prior engagement, but he won no friends by absenting himself from this important meeting about the future of our Forest.


Time and again the speakers made the point that the Government's plans to allow local people and organisations to buy and run the Forest themselves was both impractical and an affront - we own the Forest already!


Baroness Jan Royall, who has lived in the Forest nearly all her life, said that the Forestry Commission in the Forest of Dean is based locally in Coleford and is always responsive to the wishes of local people. And while not always agreeing with everything it does, it has served our community very well in recent times, creating and maintaining access for all.


She also made the point that at the moment it costs the British public only 30p per person per year to run our forests and that it was hard to see how better value for money could be obtained in any other way.


In answer to a question about why HOOF were pressing for an exception to be made of the Forest of Dean rather than trying to overturn the bill in its entirety, Baroness Royall said that the Forest of Dean was different to other forests in that, for historical reasons, it had very few actual rights of way but instead had privileges. This made it much more vulnerable to having the footpaths and bridal paths that we all enjoy now, closed down.




Parts 1-2 The Forest of Dean sell off

http://bristolindymedia.blip.tv/file/4508789/        Part 1
http://bristolindymedia.blip.tv/file/4509120/        Part 2


Parts 3-5 The Cinderford library sell off
http://bristolindymedia.blip.tv/file/4507659/          Part 3
http://bristolindymedia.blip.tv/file/4507858/          Part 4
http://bristolindymedia.blip.tv/file/4508370/          Part 5


A link to a radio broadcast on The Forest of Dean's own Triangle FM radio station



A link to a podcast by Jason Griffiths of audio interviews with people at the Miners Hall meeting. Visit http://www.forestofdeanpodcast.com/ and click HOOF

Mark Harper's column in the Forester tries to assure people that under the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 our "right to roam" the Forest will still be upheld. But will it? Owen Adams investigates and finds a very different picture.
As we can see in Mark Harper's column in the Forester (Thurs 9 Dec), he isn't focussing so much on the community buy-out idea but trying to assure people that under the Countryside Rights of Way Act 2000 our "right to roam" the Forest will still be upheld, whoever owns it:


I have been poring over this Act (Google it and you should find it), and also looking at http://saveourforests.co.uk to look at its loopholes and limitations...


In summary: while we MAY be able to walk within the woods (or MAY NOT, see points 4 and 5):


1. we may be obliged to keep dogs on short leads of no more than two metres in length


2. we may find paths blocked and any visitor amenities, such as toilets, car parks, picnic sites and disabled/wheelchair access, no longer maintained - the landowner is under no obligation to keep our currently permissive routes, and unless we are on the Gloucestershire or Wysis Ways which traverse the Forest, the vast majority of other paths and tracks are not public rights of way


3. we will not necessarily be allowed to cycle or ride horses in the woods, let alone drive down Forestry tracks or get to picnicking/walking spots


4. any land can be closed to the public for 28 days of the year


5. we can be prevented from walking near any buildings, any new planting/felling areas, or areas where quarrying or mining activities taking place. Re planting, we have just heard that on public Forestry land recently sold in the Mendips, Somerset, that the public have been told they can't enter for another 30 or 40 years until the new crop matures.


One response to anyone who says 'wait for the White Paper'... where's the green paper from which consultation traditionally helps to form the white paper?

Momentous events at the full District Council meeting held on Wed 8th Dec!

HOOF wins backing of Council who will send delegation to Parliament

HOOF has wons the backing of Forest of Dean District Council.


The Council is to send a delegation to Parliament to put pressure on the Prime Minister, MPs and Lords against any sell-off.


The council has clarified that public ownership means a public body under the control of a democratically elected government.


Andrew Gardiner's motion was also passed.


The full motion that was passed:


Councillor Andrew Gardiner moved the following amended Motion.


To avoid attempts which could lead to Privatisation of the Royal Forest of Dean - this Council should do everything in its power to consolidate and enhance the exemptions from sale pertaining to the Statutory Forest of Dean and the protected contiguous woodlands (of Highmeadow, Clearwell and Hope ).


Furthermore because an enabling bill would empower ministers to act unilaterally and remove effective parliamentary scrutiny, this Council should seek enhanced protective designations in accordance with the protection afforded by Section 39(2A) of the Forestry Act 1967.


Therefore this Council to ;


1) write to Mark Harper M.P, Prime Minister David Cameron M.P, and electronically copy to the Secretary of State, Baroness Royall of Blaisdon , All Members of Parliament , House of Lords and Local Authorities – requesting their urgent action to exempt the Royal Forest of Dean from Clause 17 of the Public Bodies Bill.


2) for a deputation of Member’s representatives from All Groups and an Officer/s and co-opted expert/s to visit and meet with those engaged in the Public Bodies Bill passing through the Lords and Commons.


3) For the Solicitor of the Council to coordinate matters included in bullet point 2.


Leader of the council's Labour group Bruce Hogan's motion, with the last paragraph an added amendment by leader of the council's Independent group Norman Stephens' amendment (agreed to by Coun Hogan):


This council believes that the publicly owned woodlands currently managed by the Forestry Commission are a precious national asset.


This council aligns itself with the local campaign to prevent the sale or transfer of ownership of the Forest of Dean, (Hands Off Our Forest), and invites our Member of Parliament to a meeting with all elected members so that there can be a full and frank exchange of views.


Furthermore, this council makes clear in its stated opposition to any public owned Forestry land in the Forest of Dean being sold off that privatisation means the transfer of ownership of Forestry land to any body or organisation other than a local body under the control of a democratically elected government in the United Kingdom.


"Misinformation pervaded chamber" says Alan Robertson in an open letter to Councillor Amos regarding Thursday's debate

Dear Councillor Amos


The Public Bodies Bill - The Forest of Dean


I attended the Council meeting last Thursday and was alarmed by the misinformation that pervaded the chamber and the lack of appreciation of the issues relating to this matter, a matter of immense importance to the people of the Forest of Dean.  I trust therefore that you will not object to me addressing the matter by way of an open letter, it is too important to deal with in any other way.


At the meeting a member observed: “We are discussing legal points which we haven’t really grasped”.  Another suggested an adjournment to clarify the legal position.  Does this not suggest that the Council should have had an item placed on the agenda to discuss the issue with the benefit of an officers’ report explaining the law and the intricacies involved?  Was it not seen to be of sufficient significance to warrant that?


In the absence of a report the quality of the debate and, as I will show later in this letter, the resolution cobbled together at the last moment were poorer than then this issue and the people of the Forest of Dean deserve.


It was said at the meeting that no proposal had as yet been received from the Government.  But, as you will know, the Public Bodies Bill, was introduced in the House of Lords over a month ago and on any reading of it it will have a profound effect on the Forest if it passes unamended into statute.  To your credit you had familiarised yourself with the Bill and were in a position to debate the Government's proposals. You referred to the “rights” and “freedoms” mentioned in the Bill and, I believe, did so to persuade the meeting that the "rights" to the Forest we enjoy are not threatened by the Bill.  In this you reflected Defra’s promise that “Full measures will remain in place to preserve the public benefits of woods and forests under any new ownership arrangements.  … public rights of way and access will be unaffected … “


You referred to either Clause 8 or sub-clause (8), I am uncertain which.  But, if I understood you correctly, you said words to the effect that the Secretary of State’s power to make an order under the Bill was qualified, that he could do so only if he considers that the order “does not prevent any person from continuing to exercise any right or freedom which that person might reasonably expect to continue to exercise”. 


Since the meeting I have looked again at the Bill.  Clause 8 contains the qualification but that clause is concerned with the abolition and merging of offices and bodies, the modifying of constitutional and funding arrangements, the transfer of functions and delegation and was not relevant to the motion before the Council.


Clause 13 also has the qualification but it is concerned exclusively with the powers of Welsh ministers.


I conclude that you must have been referring to Clause 18, the only remaining clause containing the qualification, at sub-clause (8).  Clause 18 falls within that part of the Bill relating to forestry and deals with the powers of the Secretary of State to modify the constitutional arrangements and functions of the Forestry Commissioners, and to the transfer of their functions to another person. 


Clause 18 is of concern but it was not that to which the motion referred. Councillor Winship addressed her motion specifically to the sale of forestry land and it is to Clause 17 that we must refer.  Sub-clause (1) of Clause 17 states:

“This section applies to the functions of the Secretary of State under the following provisions of the Forestry Act 1967 -

(a)  Section 39(2) (disposal).“


The exercise of the Clause 17 functions are not qualified in the way you suggested, it makes no reference to rights and freedoms.  The provision you cited is therefore entirely misleading.


Even if the qualification applied to disposals it would not help the Forest. Rights and freedoms are capable of enforcement at law but our use and enjoyment of the Forest arises from historic privileges, not rights and freedoms. 


You will know from the Hansard reports of the 1981 debates I copied to you on the 4th December that “The Forest of Dean is wholly different (from other woodlands). It is an historic Crown forest in which an entire community has developed, using and enjoying the land in many ways which are not protected by legal rights. ... It is those privileges which can be wholly lost if this land is sold to private persons.”  The words of Lord Bledisloe QC who (I remind you in view of the nature of Thursday’s debate) clearly loved the Forest. His family has lived on the very edge of the Forest for more than 250 years and his father and grandfather and, he believed, more remote ancestors had all been verderers of the Forest.


As Lord Kilmarnock said in the 1981 debates “The Dean is in fact the only state forest where the local people have no rights whatsoever”.


And to quote Lord McNeil: “...the people who live in the Forest of Dean are uniquely disadvantaged and therefore uniquely endangered by the (1981) Bill as it stands (i.e. before the amendment exempting the Forest from the power of disposal), because for various historical reasons they have no legal rights of common or of access. Instead they have customary privileges, which are fully recognised by the Forestry Commission, and it is difficult to see how these de facto privileges could possibly be safeguarded if any part of the Forest of Dean were to pass into private hands.”


Thursday's debate demonstrated a failure on the part of some to appreciate the distinction between rights and privileges and that failure jeopardises all that was achieved in 1981: the exemption of the Forest from the power of disposal and the preservation of its customs and traditions.  Does it not occur to members that if those customs and privileges are lost, if the character of the Forest changes (as it inevitably must if it is sold off) tourism in the area will plummet with dire consequences for the local economy and employment?


There are other matters raised at the meeting with which I take issue.


It was said that there have been wholesale sales of Forest land and that excluding the Forest from the power of disposal would not achieve anything as the Forestry Commission has been selling off land and will continue to do so.  Do Councillors really believe this?  To throw this into the debate without identifying the land in question and its status is entirely unhelpful and should not have gone unchallenged.  


As you know land within the Forest may be sold “if it is not needed, or ought not to be used, for the purpose of afforestation or any purpose connected with forestry”.  So woodlands used for afforestation are protected; other Forestry Commission land may be sold.  If members know of the disposal of protected woodlands why has the Council not acted to protect the Forest?


Similarly, for reference to be made to “brownfield sites” as though that status has any bearing on what may or may not be sold under the Forestry Act is entirely misleading and demonstrates a poor understanding of the issues involved.


Thursday night's resolution


I have read the resolution passed at Thursday's meeting and wonder what interpretation the Secretary of State will put on it, it is sufficiently vague to be capable of more than one meaning.  Instead of "This council is opposed to any selling off of forest land that would compromise the protection of  our most valuable and bio diverse forest and lead to greater commercial exploitation and possibly reduced access" could your amendment not simply have said "This Council is opposed to the disposal of any land within the Forest of Dean which is needed or is used for the purpose of afforestation or any purpose connected with forestry"?  (I have borrowed the words of the Forestry Act 1967 as amended by the 1981 Act).



What is meant by "possibly" reduced access?  Does the Council doubt that access will be curtailed in the event of privatisation?  The 1981 Hansard Reports indicate unequivocally that it will be.


The first and last parts of the resolution are mutually contradictory: the first allows sales (if the forest is not compromised in the way suggested), the last seeks to prevent all privatisation. 


When does the Council anticipate consultation will take place?  By not specifying this the Council invites delay.  I believe Councillor Winship's motion sought consultation before the Bill is introduced into the House of Commons.  Why was this unacceptable to the Council?


The Council will defend our historic rights, traditions and privileges.  To what historic rights does the resolution refer?  


What "possible action" to prevent privatisation is envisaged?  Will the Council seek an injunction if the privatisation of any publicly owned forestry land in the Forest of Dean is proposed?  Should regard not be had to what the law allows?  There surely should be no objection to the privatisation of publicly owned forestry land in accordance with the Forestry Act 1967 as amended by the 1981 Act, i.e. land within the Forest which "is not needed, or ought not to be used, for the purpose of afforestation or any purpose connected with forestry".  The legislation permits the Forestry Commission to sell it.  So for the Council to resolve to take every possible action to prevent the privatisation of land which the statute says may be sold reflects a misunderstanding of the position and of the Council's powers.



The adjourned meeting next Wednesday affords the Council an opportunity to reconsider its position and ensure a coherent resolution.  Is not the most straight forward way of preserving the Forest to ask Parliament to exempt the Forest (and the contiguous woodlands like Highmeadow, Clearwell and Hope) from the effects of the Bill in the same way that the Forest was recognised as unique and treated as a special case in 1981 and exempted from the power of disposal in Section 2 of the Forestry Act 1967 as amended?


It was said on all sides of the chamber on Thursday evening that members love the Forest, that they want to keep it as it is.  If they are sincere in that they need to be reminded of what Lord McNeil said when he introduced his amendment to the Forestry Bill in 1981: “I want to emphasise that there is no party politics at all in this amendment. The friend who first alerted me to the danger is a Liberal; the chairman of the district council who came to London last Wednesday to plead with the Ministers to accept the amendment is a Labour councillor; and we have the wholehearted support of the Member of Parliament concerned for West Gloucestershire who is, of course, a Conservative. I am hopeful, too, that support may come from all points of the compass in this Chamber. So let us forget party politics—as we often do, I think, when we are at our best—and discuss this very important matter entirely on its merits.”


On behalf of all those who live in and who visit the Forest and those who strove so successfully to protect the Forest in 1981 and 1994, and the generations to come, may I plead with the Council to be at its best, to forget party politics and discuss this matter next Wednesday entirely on its merits (members having taken the trouble to make themselves fully conversant with the issues involved beforehand).


Yours sincerely


Alan Robertson

Result of district council meeting on Thurs 2 Dec

The councillors debated a motion by Coun Marion Winship (non-political group, former Conservative leader) which called for:


Full public consultation before the Public Rights Bill reaches the House of Commons and for a letter to be sent to Defra secretary that the council is against any privatisation of the Forest of Dean


The debate lasted about three hours. About 40 people - most of them Hoof campaigners - sat in the public gallery, and acted with decorum throughout, merely applauding several speeches. In particular, Marion Winship's eloquent and passionate speech introducing her motion was applauded by Labour councillors as well as some Independents and the public.


Coun Marion Winship's motion (strengthened and changed from the one published in the agenda) was challenged by an amendment from the Conservative leader Peter Amos . The amendment, in the opinion of many councillors, and as far as one could tell most of the public present, significantly watered down the motion, but it was eventually passed.


The motion that was finally passed was:


This council is opposed to any selling off of forest land that would compromise the protection of  our most valuable and bio-diverse forest and lead to greater commercial exploitation and possibly reduced access


1.     This council will write to Secretary of State for the Environment expressing sentiments above and asking for assurances that a full and complete public consultation will take place within this district and be heeded


2.   This Council will support and defend the historic rights, traditions and privileges of the public within the Forest of Dean.


Furthermore, this council will take every possible action to prevent the privatisation of any publicly owned forestry land in the Forest of Dean.


Another amendment from Liberal councillor Sue Henchley, which called for the customary privileges and permissive routes to be protected in perpetuity was defeated. All the Conservatives present voted as one to reject the original motion and Sue Henchley's 2nd amendment, and to support Peter Amos's amendment.

The meeting was adjourned to Wednesday 8th December at 6pm, when two further bills from Andrew Gardiner and Bruce Hogan will be debated.
We are now urging people to lobby their councillors to support Andrew Gardiner's and particularly Bruce Hogan's motions on Wednesday (as he specifically calls for the council to support the Hoof campaign and arrange a meeting with Mark Harper). Jane Horne has withdrawn hers.
Full reports and reaction will appear in the Review on Wednesday and Forester on Thursday.

Our Forest is not for sale! by Owen Adams 24th November 2010


The Government wants to sell off our woods – and our MP believes that we should buy shares in what already belongs to us. We believe his idea is a non-starter, and that once the family silver is up for grabs, it’ll be snatched from us forever. That’s why all of us must fight now to keep our Forest of Dean. Read on.....


The Public Bodies bill is already winding its way through Parliament: if passed as law, it will give a single Government minister the power to dismantle the current custodians of our woods, the Forestry Commission, and sell any woodland it desired. This would be without any debate in Parliament, let alone asking us, the electorate, what we think.


The proposed law has been called a “skeleton bill” by members of the House of Lords as it gives no details on what it proposes to do, which woods it plans to sell, and exactly what it wants to do with the Forestry Commission. A House of Lords select committee report has warned it is unconstitutional and undermines democracy. In one broad sweep, the proposed law would wipe out royal charters and other laws – including one from 1981 which gave special protection to the statutory Forest of Dean (comprising the main block of forest and some outlying woods).


The Government says those opposing the forestry sell-off are making a fuss about nothing: that public access, wildlife and trees will be protected under any sell-off. Ministers said the public would be consulted this autumn, now they say not until January. They are still keeping us in the dark about what is planned, so how can we believe their reassuring words?


We don’t even know what their precise motive is, aside from making a quick buck from the sell-off – which cannot be described as anything but brazen theft on a massive scale. The Forestry Commission – which does an excellent job of managing our woods both as a public playground and a fine example of silviculture – cost us £500,000 this year, a drop in the ocean compared with other public services, not to mention helping with America’s war in Afghanistan and paying our EU membership.


If we were to go with what Forest MP (and Government minister for constitutional reform) Mark Harper’s “exciting opportunity” to “own” the Forest of Dean, all 80,000 of us living in the district would need least a few hundred pounds each to put in a community pot to buy our share of forest, and then we would have to think of management costs, not to mention public liability insurance.


Under EU rules, there would be competitive tendering, so even if we all had deep pockets, we might still lose our precious woodlands – with their magic and timeless beauty, according to JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – to a faceless corporation which wouldn’t necessarily have the community’s interest at heart.


In October 2010, the Sunday Telegraph broke the news that the Government wanted to sell half of Britain’s public forests (it turned out to be just England’s, because the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament flatly turned down the proposal).

Mark Harper initially refused to comment on what he called “press speculation”, but Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon, a Forester and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords, warned the threat was real.


The Forester newspaper sprang into action with the Hands Off Our Forest campaign, quickly forming an alliance for the first time with free newspaper the Forest & Wye Valley Review. Pressure group Dean Forest Voice and representatives from the two newspapers issued a call to unite and fight, and formed a steering group with various organisations, including Friends of the Forest, the Forest of Dean Local History Group, the Forestry Commission Trade Unions, Cinderford Town Council, the TUC, Freeminers’ Association, Commoners’ Association, Play Gloucestershire and Baroness Royall.


Our fears were confirmed, as Government ministers Jim Paice, and his boss, environment secretary Caroline Spelman, rhapsodised about transferring our forests from public to private ownership and the ‘Big Society’ – of which we allegedly will all play a part, but at the moment seems confined to cliques of ‘stakeholders’ that have no connection with people on the street (or in the woods).

HOOF has been given the thumbs up from the Warren James Group, the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and Open Spaces, and other groups are being added to that list all the time. We formed a Facebook group and within a fortnight rallied 2,500 members, created an online petition and sent paper copies to shops. These actions were followed by roadside boards, stickers, question-and-answer fact sheets, and a presence at Christmas lights switch-on events in the Forest towns.


Veterans of other campaigns in 1981 and 1993 to privatise the Forest of Dean or sell it off are also involved. Those campaigns were victorious, partly because they enlisted the support of our Conservative MP at the time, Paul Marland – he changed his mind after seeing the mighty strength of feeling.


Our current objectives are to convince Mark Harper to support us against a sell-off, to fight – through Baroness Royall, who is doing all she can to save her beloved Forest and to mobilise support among Peers in the House of Lords for sections 17 to 19 of the Public Bodies bill (those dealing with Forestry matters) to be scrapped, or failing that, to persuade Lords to vote for an exemption for the Forest of Dean before the bill reaches the House of Commons next year.

Also, we want to get to the bottom of what is being planned by the secretive mandarins and ministers at Whitehall. We really think it’s time the Government came clean and explains to us what’s going on. 


HOOF wants to make links with other battles to save forests across England and share information resources and advice, and although we are opposed to any woodlands being sold off but our focus must be on saving our own – their value to us is priceless and we are determined to save them. Compromise is not an option in this case. Anyone who knows the Forest of Dean and Foresters will know the undying passion we have for the land between Severn and Wye.

A survey from 2009 showed only 1% in Britain wanted to sell any of our public forests: mineral and quarrying companies, however, also know the value of our Forest of Dean and the quick cash that could be made from emptying it of coal through opencast or strip-mining, and sandstone and limestone by erasing the trees, selling the timber, and digging up the stone. Alternatively, tourism giants such as Center Parcs would see it as a great prize if it hasn’t been raped by industrial conglomerates.


No one can be certain whether either of these options will come to pass, but we must be aware there are vested interests circling on our 40,000 acres, and we must stand our ground and fight whoever wants to take our liberty and Foresters’ birthright away from them. A policy of wait and see is dangerous: we need to nip this proposal in the bud now before we lose OUR Forest.

We urge everyone to protest in whichever way they can – Hands Off Our Forest!

Step one: display a roadside board, sticker, read our fact sheets, come to the public meeting at the Miners’ Welfare Hall in Cinderford on Friday December 10 at 7pm. Baroness Jan Royall of Blaisdon will be there – Mark Harper says he has another appointment, but we are hoping he will come around or send someone else (if he can find anyone) to represent the Government’s viewpoint. Also, sign the big national online petition at www.38degrees.org.uk/page/s/save-our-forests#petition

Step two: if the Government hasn’t shelved the plans by the end of 2010, we will up the ante.

Owen Adams, November 24, 2010


Mark Harper MP tries to sell idea of local ownership of Forest but runs into opposition on the doorstep. "How on earth can the community run it?" resident tells him, while Forest Chief confirms that Forest is already run locally.

RESIDENTS in Coalway have been canvassed by their MP on `an opportunity to own our Forest'.
Mark Harper approached villagers and delivered pamphlets which stated: "Instead of bureaucrats based in London telling us how to run the Forest, the Government's plans open the door for local people to take charge of our Forest and decide how it's managed... I think the opportunity to own and control our Forest locally is not one we should give up lightly and I'd like your opinion on this'.


Resident Siamak Alimi told the MP he opposed any sell-off: "Mark and his entourage looked rattled by the strength of feeling from local people. He called our reaction `hysterical' and invited me to wait for the White Paper before jumping to conclusions."

Felicity Greenman, also from Coalway, said: "I spent 10 minutes telling him how vehemently I oppose any sell-off, and how on earth can the community run it?"


The Dean's Forestry chief, deputy surveyor Kevin Stannard, confirmed that - although he follows Government guidelines, "within that framework, the local interpretation and implementation of that guidance is very much down to me and my team". This includes "what works for the people, wildlife and trees that make up the Dean".

How to find out how your councillor voted in council meetings

After every council meeting, the minutes are published on the Forest of Dean Council web site www.fdean.gov.uk


It can take up to a week after the meeting before they appear.


The minutes contain full information on how each councillor voted in each motion debated.


Alternatively you can phone the Democratic Services department of the council and ask how individual councillors voted. 01594 810 000


You can find out who your councillors are by using this link .www.writetothem.com