Sale of 15 per cent of English forests to raise £100m

Sales of a 15 per cent portion of English public forests will go ahead within the next four years, raising an expected £100m, the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said yesterday.

She expressed concern that terms governing the sale do not allow enough protection for access and public benefits, but told the Commons Environment Select Committee that the sales would go ahead within the spending review, which runs to 2015.

Mrs Spelman also defended a consultation on plans to sell the rest of the public forests, which sparked fierce opposition and was dropped last month. "I simply thought it was right to give the public the chance to be consulted about the future of the forest estate," she told MPs.

Shortly before the consultation was dropped, the previously announced sales of 15 per cent of public forests were suspended over concerns about protecting the benefits they provide. An independent panel has been set up to examine the future of England's forests.