Letter: Should our woods stay public or is it right to sell them?

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Should our woods stay public or is it right to sell them?

THE Government has admitted that it had to rule out the imposition of public access conditions on the sale of our woodlands because of legal advice ("Where have all the woods gone?", Review, 16 June). Which means that either the sales should not have taken place or the law should have been changed. The Government's own agency, the Countryside Commission, has stated: "The danger is that without new laws and new mechanisms to protect recreation and to protect the environmental quality of woods, the new owners will be unable or unwilling to provide these benefits."

The World Wide Fund for Nature has stated: "The Government does not adequately enforce the laws to close loopholes which allow woodland destruction to continue", eg, a new owner is not obliged to re-stock if the felling was done under the Woodland Grant Scheme. We are not even allowed to know to whom our woodlands are being sold. A foreign toxic-waste company?

The Ramblers' Association has done a fine and difficult job but the figure of 124,918 hectares as the area sold between 1981 and 1996 is surely much too low. Hansard for the Lords in a debate on 14 April 1993 gave 172,000 hectares and this figure (425,000 acres) was used by the forestry unions in October 1993. In 1994 and 1995, 11,249 and 9,002 hectares were sold respectively, making the total at least 192,241 hectares.

Philip Greig

Swindon, Wiltshire

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