NEW Thursday 10th April 2014
Shadow Minister meets HOOF
Right to left: Maria Eagle, Shadow environment minister;Rich Daniels, HOOF; Steve Parry-Hearn, prospective Labour parliamentary candidate for the Forest of Dean; Jackie Fraser and Cheryl Mayo, HOOF
Shadow environment minister, Maria Eagle, hears HOOF's case detailing why the Government's latest proposals for the public forest estate in England are inadequte.
On Thursday 10th April, the shadow environment minister Maria Eagle met at Beechenhurst with representatives of HOOF and with Steve Parry-Hearn, the Forest of Dean's Labour parliamentary candidate, who supports HOOF in their campaign.
Ms Eagle listened attentively to HOOF's case for why the Government's proposed new forestry bill will still leave England's public woodlands under threat.
HOOF had also invited the Defra secretary Owen Paterson and Forestry minister Dan Rogerson to the Forest of Dean, but so far they have not taken up our invitation.
HOOF is pleased that our cause has been championed by the Forest of Dean Labour Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Steve Parry-Hearn, and Maria Eagle. HOOF has also received full backing from the Green Party.
Now HOOF calls on our MP, Mark Harper, to back our campaign aims: These aims are:
1. Guaranteed £22 million in funding from the Treasury for the English Public Forest Estate per annum (or 38p per annum, per taxpayer) to ensure public benefits, plant health and conservation are protected.
2. To follow in full the Independent Panel for Forestry's recommendation of a board of Guardians (with its members balanced between community, conservation and business representatives) delivering and bound by the terms of a statutory Charter, and answerable to Parliament.
3. To introduce draft legislation in the June 4 Queen's Speech, and not delay it any longer.
4. For the legislation to include a safeguard ensuring that the new Public Forest Estate Management Body cannot be privatised during the lifetime of the Act of Parliament.
5. For the cessation of biodiversity offsetting schemes, backdoor privatisation of public facilities, and land sales, swaps, leasings and other forms of piecemeal disposal and change of use of land within the Public Forest Estate.
Hands Off Our Forest has been giving presentations at public events and parish and town meetings across the Forest of Dean explaining our concerns and we have received universal support and positive feedback at all of them.
Monday 31st March 2014
New law allows sell off of woodlands
800 year old woods to be bulldozed to make way for new motorway service station using the bio-diversity offsetting laws.
HOOF urges you to object NOW to avoid this devastating legal loophole (see later for how to register your protest)
Grave implications for the future of the Forest of Dean says HOOF
Smithy Wood is a haven for a variety of ancient woodland plants, fungi and butterflies. But developers want to bulldoze the 12th-century forest to make way for a motorway petrol station.
In a crucial test case, Extra MSA Group has submitted a formal planning application to destroy 20 acres of ancient woodland, and offered to plant twice as many new trees nearby.
The firm, which specialises in building motorway services, is the first to attempt to use the controversial process, known as 'biodiversity offsetting', for ancient woodland
Environment Secretary Owen Paterson is very keen on the idea of offsetting.
But wildlife groups say it is a travesty to suggest that ancient woodlands, which in this case are 850 years old, could be replaced overnight. They are worried the proposals will create a loophole that allows developers to freely concrete over Britain’s forests.
But even if this case is rejected, the implications for the Forest of Dean and other English public forests is dire, as very little of the FoD is classified as ancient woodland and would have far less protection.
Under the new law, any forest can be destroyed as long as trees are planted elsewhere. In theory, this means the whole of the Forest of Dean could be concreted over, as long as a hillside in Scotland or Bavaria was re-forested.
What can we do?
HOOF's legal advisor, Alan Robertson, has sent the following information and we urge you to follow his example and register your dismay at this desecration. If we can nip this in the bud now, perhaps we will stand more chance of saving our Forest from this appalling new law.
Alan writes that the sensible and practical thing to do NOW is to object to the application and encourage the world and his wife to do likewise.
Send an objection - online. To do so, go to the Sheffield City Council Website and make a comment. You will need to register first, but it only takes a minute.
He says "In addition, send an e-mail to the local MP, Angela Smith, who opposes the application. Give her as much ammunition as possible. I can't see 38 Degrees taking up cudgels against a planning application so if there is to be an expression of large-scale opposition it is up to campaign groups and the like to organise and encourage it".
Monday 17th March 2014
"Why we must keep fighting"
HOOF has produced a document explaining why our Forest is still under threat.
Download it here. Read it, print it out, send it to everyone you know. This leaflet will make it clear why we have not yet won the battle to keep our forests out of the hands of property developers and charities
Over the next few weeks HOOF will be campaigning vigourously to make everyone aware of why we cannot accept the Government's new proposals. They will be holding community/council consultations,starting with a presentation to Newent Council on Monday 17th March at 8pm.
We will also be at the Transitions Spring Fair at Cinderford Miners' Welfare Hall, from 11am-4pm, so come along and find out what's going on and ask questions.
Wednesday 1st January 2014
Our Forest is still in danger of being taken away from us!
The first few months of 2014 will be a crucial time.
Flying in the face of the recommendations of the Government appointed independent panel, and in spite of frequent meetings between HOOF, Save Our Woods and Government ministers, this Government has produced a bill that will have the effect of selling off our woods to private developers .
In a letter being sent today to local and national press and TV, Rich Daniels, HOOF Chairman, says:
"The time has come again for everyone to engage again with the fight to save our Forest from predators, and battle a new piece of legislation which, if passed by Parliament, has the potential of leaving our Forest of Dean open to exploitation from (to quote from the latest proposals) “a range of commercial freedoms... [including] mineral extraction, agriculture and industrial lettings of land and premises”.
"HOOF doesn’t think there are anywhere near enough safeguards to protect the Forest from being taken over by private leisure and industrial concerns, and we fear that transferring the ownership and management to a public corporation could be a halfway house to full-scale privatisation."
The full press release from Rich can be viewed or downloaded here. This is essential reading. Please download it now and email it to everyone you know
If we do nothing, we WILL lose our precious Forest
The HOOF Committee will be meeting next week to plan an urgent new campaign, so keep coming back to this website for details.
So it is with great regret we have to say - Hands Off Our Forest - Again!
Monday 23rd September 2013
HOOF submits its document of disquiet to Secretary of State
Government falling short on its promise to implement the Independent Forestry Panel's report.
Toothless Guardians, opening up our forests to commercial interests and lack of funding particular worries
HOOF today has submitted to the Secretary of State its response to the Government's proposals for England's forests. It singles out for particular criticism the changed role of the Guardians from that of powerful control to toothless watchdog; the lack of adequate funding from the public purse; and the hazy rules about disposal of parts of the estate which HOOF feels do not adequately safeguard the forests, especially the Forest of Dean.
In the 8 page document, HOOF argues that on these and other issues, the Government's proposals fall far short of the Independent Panel's vision of a strengthened and expanded forest estate, kept safe in perpetuity for the people.
To read the full document, click here or on the image above
The two recently published Government documents to which the above refers can be seen here and here
Sunday 4th August2013
Bishop James unhappy with Government palns for Forests
Head of independent report tells HOOF of fears that draft government proposals contradict the panel’s main recommendations
The Bishop of Liverpool (left) with members of the panel
visiting a working mine with Rich Daniels
Government “unwise to provoke a public reaction” by failing to follow the panel’s key points.
In an exclusive interview with HOOF’s Rich Daniels, the Bishop of Liverpool expressed his fears that the government may not be planning to implement the key recommendations of the report that he and the rest of the Independent Panel published, following the government’s U-turn over privatising the English public forests.
Bishop James said he would not be content with any proposals about the future of forestry which contradicted the recommendations of the Independent Panel.
In particular he said he would be unhappy if:
- The Government abandoned the proposal to establish a Parliamentary Charter
- If it marginalised the proposed Guardians to the point that they become ineffectual
- If it failed to establish a distance between the Government and the management and development of the Public Forest Estate.
These were all key elements of the Panel’s report and recommendations.
He said the Government would be unwise to provoke a public reaction by failing to follow through on the Panel’s recommendations.
Rich Daniels, HOOF chair and Our Forests member, said,
“The latest arrangements appear to minimise the direct and real influence of the public and forest communities in the management of the public forest estate. And the emphasis for the new body seems to be primarily on developing commercial enterprises that can exploit and extract cash from our forests and woods, rather than maximising their less readily monetised and marketable, but nonetheless hugely valuable, public and environmental goods and services”
Sunday 4th August2013
HOOF and Our Forests pressure wins Government concessions, but dangers for safety of public forests remain
Independent Panel challenged to respond to the Government’s proposals
In its latest version of its draft outline for the management structure, the consultations the minister has had with representatives from HOOF and Our Forests seems to have had an effect, as they appear to have addressed some of our concerns (see column on right).
However, much remains wooly and uncertain, and it is far from clear that the English public forest estate is safe in the government’s hands.
In an open letter to the Independent Panel on Forestry, Our Forests today throws down the gauntlet and bluntly asks them:
“Are you content to allow the Government to ignore and dilute your key recommendations for the future of the Public Forest Estate?”
Our Forests go on to make it clear that the Government may be about to renege on the commitment they made to implement the report in full.
In particular, Our Forests believes that the Government’s draft proposals fail to meet the independent report’s key criteria, resulting in:
This was the panel’s main recommendation, its aim being to remove the public Forests from party political control.
Guardians reduced to a sideshow
The role of the Independent “Guardians”, who the panel envisaged would oversee and control the executives who administer our forests, is reduced to a toothless body appointed by the secretary of state.
Reducing public funding and increasing economic returns prioritised above all other benefits.
The independent report made it clear that the 35p a year per person that the English forests cost the taxpayer were extremely good value for money and that benefits of health and well-being were at least as important as making money from trees. However, the present government does not see it this way and seems to see the forests only as a cash cow to be milked for the exchequer.
Our Forests member Jonathon Porritt said:
“Hundreds of thousands of people in communities across the country placed great faith in the Panel’s role and its recommendations for securing the long-term future of their woods and forests. Therefore, Our Forests is challenging the Panel to come out openly and say whether or not it is content with the Government’s interpretation and proposed implementation of its recommendations?”
HOOF of course, through it’s chair Rich Daniels, plays a pivotal role in Our Forests and we completely endorse the great work Our Forests are doing on behalf of the people of the Forest of Dean and the whole country.
The full Our Forests statement
The Stop Press statement following the Governments new draft
Wednesday 10th July 2013
FOREST MAY BE IN PERIL AGAIN!
Government says it may not implement the key aspects of the independent report.
"Guardians" to be toothless.
Minister to have total control over who runs our forests.
After 3 years of protest and a major independent report, The Government has published its initial proposals for managing England's public forests.
HOOF have looked at these proposals - and we do not like what we have seen.
If these plans are implented without amendment, the Government will be throwing away the report's model of a non-political body of guardians to safeguard the English forests for the people. They seem determined to implement their original version of privatisation and put the Secretary of State in total control.
When the Government asked the Bishop of Liverpool and his panel to prepare a report into how England's public forests should be managed, it said it would abide by the report, whatever it's outcome.
Look at the table below and you decide whether they intend to abide by the report...
|The Independent Report said
||Government are proposing
|A board of independent Guardians should safeguard the future of the English public Forests
||The Guardians' role to be subjugated to "advisory" only, with no powers to alter anything
|Forests to be run on a day to day basis by a Board of Directors who answer to the Guardians
||Directors to set policy including whether private companies or charities can run aspects of the forests
|Guardians and Directors to be free from political pressure so they can keep the forests safe for everyone
||Directors and Guardians to be appointed by and directly answerable to the Secretary of State
HOOF are demanding talks with the Ministers involved and we will let you know how they go as soon as we can.
The Government are saying "It will be alright. Trust us"
WELL DO YOU?
We won before and we will win again, and unless they are prepared to alter their proposals the only losers will be the present coalition government when the nation realises they cannot be trusted with our precious forests.
The two recently published Government documents to which the above refers can be seen here and here
Sunday 10th February 2013
A HUGE THANK YOU!
To all Hands Off Our Forest Supporters
The news from the Government response to the Forestry Panel Report is very encouraging. We have all come a great distance since we all stood on a snowy Speech House field two years ago.
Now the government has committed:
• to keep the Public Forest Estate in public ownership
• to recognise the importance of our forest culture to the economy
• to confirm that forests and woodlands will not be sold and to formally rescind the suspended sale of 15% of the Public Forest Estate
• to engage stakeholders, communities, and those who spoke up for our forests, in designing how they are run in future
• to increase and improve public access to woodland, including private woodlands
• to increase tree cover and provide woodlands accessible to where people live
Friends of HOOF come from an infinitely wide range of people who make up our Forest community; a community which understands our Forest and wishes to see it safe for future generations; a community that has the Forest at its heart.
The truth is simply this: without the support of the people of the Forest of Dean, HOOF would not have been able to achieve what we have.
It is fair to say that the Forest of Dean was the spark that rose to a flame and helped inspire people across our country to stand up for their Forests.
I feel sure that should the situation arise when we need to stand together again, the people of the Forest will be there to answer the call, to protect their Forest, as they have always done.
On behalf of the HOOF Steering group, I would like to pass on a huge thank you for your continued support. We could not have done it without you.
Rich Daniels, Chairman
HOOF's Rich Daniels (third from left) and members of Forest Campaigns Network at a recent meeting with David Heath, Minister for Agriculture and Food (centre).
Photo courtesy of Hen (left) of Save Our Woods
31st Jan 2013
GOVERNMENT PUBLISHES RESPONSE TO INDEPENDENT PANEL REPORT
The Government has published its long awaited statement about the future of our public forests
- 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
Thursday 10th January 2013
HOOF CONTINUES FIGHT FOR FUTURE OF FOREST
- FUNDING AND RESOURCES NOW KEY ISSUES
Hands Off Our Forest is calling on the Government to follow the expert recommendations of the independent panel it set up and provide adequate funding for the future management of our Forest.
HOOF also wants to alert supporters to the fact that “we’re not out of the woods yet!”
The first HOOF protest march just over two years ago that kick-started the
nation-wide rebellion against the privatisation of our forests
HOOF considers that we Foresters have won two rounds of the battle to keep our Forest public – signalled by the Government’s U-turn on sales and the panel’s positive report which upholds the principles of public management and ownership.
But it’s now time for Round 3, which we still need to win to secure the future of the Forest of Dean in public hands.
The Government’s official response to the July 2012 Independent Panel Report, commissioned by the former environment secretary Caroline Spelman, is due to be published later this month (January 2013), and HOOF is gearing up for action once again in order to respond to it.
HOOF welcomed the panel’s report and Mrs Spelman’s confirmation that our Forest would remain in public ownership. HOOF also largely welcomed the panel’s proposals for an evolved Forestry Commission which would enable the management of the Dean and other public forests by a public body removed from governmental interference and with more community involvement.
However, the report did not mention our own Forest’s peculiar rights and customs and how they would be protected and enshrined in any future legislation and Charter;
HOOF also raised concerns about how the proposed new model and future management structure would be funded, and called for the costs of creating and maintaining the new structure to be covered and properly resourced from the public purse. It has been estimated that £20 million would be required annually to pay for the upkeep of the public forest estates under the new proposed structure.
HOOF spent the latter half of 2012 lobbying ministers, including meeting with the new Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the Forestry minister David Heath, and the Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper, as well as joining Defra and Forestry Commission research teams on site visits to the Forest of Dean, on these various points. While the representatives of HOOF and other grassroots forest campaign groups who attended the same meetings have detected a supportive response from all regarding the panel report’s recommendations, HOOF has had no positive feedback regarding the issue of funding.
HOOF chair Rich Daniels said: “The bottom line is the money. Despite the Forestry Commission and the Public Forest Estate providing outstanding value, anything with a cost attached is in serious jeopardy of not being taken forward. If there is a failure of government to safeguard our Forest and its management, we may have to protest all over again!”
Whatever the future outcome on the Forestry Commission’s structure decided by the Government, HOOF, working alongside the Forest Campaigns’ Network (FCN), will press for sufficient funding to be made available to ensure delivery of the various benefits identified in the Panel’s report.
HOOF also continues, with the FCN, to press for new legislation to protect the public woodlands in perpetuity from being sold off.
Thursday 13th September 2012
HOOF's response to the Panel's report
We asked you, the people of the Forest of Dean, what you thought of the final report into the future of England's forests and to help us shape HOOF's response to it.
We have now finished our response, which will be sent to government ministers, local councillors and the press. It can be read and printed out in full here.
Thank you to everyone who contributed their ideas.
The opening paragraphs of the report say that HOOF welcomes the IPF Report and the government’s commitment to retain England’s public forest estate (PFE) in public ownership.
However, we are concerned that the Report makes no distinction between forests. The Forest of Dean is an ancient, historic forest gifted by King George V to the people of the nation, and has many unique traditions and customs.
In addition, many of the Report’s recommendations require further clarity. This document also highlights those recommendations and provides HOOF’s views on how we believe they should be implemented in order to ensure that the spirit of the Panel’s Report is retained.
Wednesday 4th July 2012
INDEPENDENT FORESTRY REPORT WELCOMED BY HOOF AND OTHER CAMPAIGN GROUPS
Historic report seeks to increase forests
Government accepts that our woods will stay in public
hands. Proposed 15% sell-off will no longer go ahead
Forestry Panel Chairman says visit to Forest of Dean “shaped its thinking”
Main points from the report, published on 4th July 2012:
- 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
PEOPLE POWER HAS WON THE DAY
HOOF and the people of the Forest of Dean have been vindicated by this report. It appears that people power has won the day. But we do have some questions regarding the future management structure of our forests, which causes us some concern. The devil will be in the
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
We must remain vigilant to ensure the Government acts on the panel’s
recommendations, and also provides the funding and resources
necessary. There is a need for HOOF to remain strong and representative to ensure the best intentions of the panel and
Government are fulfilled.
One of the key recommendations is for a Charter to protect forests, to be managed by a group of "guardians”, that will will oversee the new public forest management organisation. Alan Robertson of HOOF said this is “Probably the single most important recommendation and possibly the most effective way of securing inalienability and protecting the PFE from the depredations of this and future governments".
However, he went on to warn that it was important the Charter should be drawn up by a more representative group than the Panel, and the trustees should likewise be drawn from a wide pool, including the campaigning groups.
He said it was important that HOOF (and Our Forests) continue to influence and monitor the work of the trust.
And Baroness Jan Royall sent us the following message:
Huge thanks to HOOF for their campaigning and their advocacy and for all those people in the Forest who hosted and helped with the visit last year by Bishop James and his colleagues on the Independent Panel on Forestry. The visit was clearly influential and the Panel has done a superb job and produced an excellent report which I warmly welcome.
There is real recognition of the many and varied public benefits of our woods and forests and a clear message that we should better value this part of our common heritage. I am delighted that not only does the report say that forests must stay in public hands and be managed sustainably, it recommends that the percentage of our public woodland cover should be increased. I also welcome the Government's announcement that they will not sell off fifteen percent of the forests as planned.
We can now work on a cross-party basis to protect biodiversity, create more woodlands and secure access for future generations to enjoy. As the report says, let the public debate continue about the social, environmental and economic opportunities that our forests can deliver. I know that HOOF and the people of the Forest will be a vital part of that debate.
We will be publishing more about this historic report and our reactions to it over the next few days.
Wednesday 27th June 2012
PUBLIC READY TO RISE UP AGAIN IF GOVERNMENT FAILS THEM OVER PUBLIC WOODS AND FORESTS
Community groups from all over England sign declaration
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 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.
To listen to our very own Forest radio station, click here