Campaigners halt forestry land sale

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The Independent Online
A PLAN TO sell 9,000 acres of Forestry Commission land in the constituency of Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, has been halted after a campaign by local people. Foreign buyers had shown considerable interest in the land in Upper Nithsdale, Dumfries and Galloway.

The stalling of the sale is a further setback to the Forestry Commission following its failure to sell 4,400 acres of forest in the Kilpatrick Hills near Loch Lomond last year. The commission needed to make a sale quickly to maintain its sales target of 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) a year, which has been set by the Government.

Dave Morris, Scottish national officer of the Ramblers' Association, believes that a decision was taken not to sell the land following pressure from Mr Lang, whose constituency of Galloway and Upper Nithsdale is marginal. The minister responsible for forestry in Scotland, Sir Hector Munro, has the neighbouring constituency of Dumfries. There are extensive forests in Dumfries and Galloway but only a small amount of land in the county is being disposed of by the commission.

The Forestry Commission denies that the Secretary of State influenced its decision not to sell.

The Nithsdale sale was opposed by the Ramblers' Association, the World Wide Fund for Nature, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds because they feared it would mean loss of public access. Sale of other Forestry Commission land has in the vast majority of cases meant total loss of public access.