Full privatisation of forests is abandoned

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The Independent Online
PLANS FOR wholesale privatisation of forests were officially abandoned yesterday but piecemeal disposal through individual sales will continue. Forest Enterprise, which owns Britain's forests, will be made more commercial by converting into a next steps agency, Ian Lang, Secretary of State for Scotland, told Parliament, writes Oliver Gillie.

The Government's approach places emphasis on encouraging the use of forests for leisure, Mr Lang said. It would pay the legal costs of local authorities which enter into agreements with new owners to safeguard public access.

'Our conclusion is that, at this stage of their development, the Forestry Commission woodlands should remain in the public sector,' said Mr Lang.

If forests were sold now, the Government would lose about pounds 700m because many are not mature. Mr Lang would not rule out privatisation at a later stage.

Sue Larbrook, of the Ramblers' Association, said: 'We believe that primary legislation is necessary to secure public access to woods after they have been sold.'