The Rt. Hon.John Redwood MP for Wokingham in Surrey has an online diary:
Yesterday, 9 February, he wrote a piece entitled “The Big Society and the state: can only the state look after us?” in which, among other things, he said of ‘heritage forests’ that others seemed to think that “apparently only the Forestry Commission can be trusted to keep the trees and allow us to walk by them.” At the end of his posting he said “The government knows that if charities and other institutions do not want to take on running a heritage forest, and if the public remain opposed to its transfer, they cannot force it. The Big Society runs on the voluntary principle. The government can offer, and allow a decade to local groups and charities to see if they want to own their local wood. It is a permissive policy, not a threat.”
I emailed Dr Redwood asking how, before the consultation, 'heritage forests' have been distinguished from 'small commercial woodlands' and that I could not see local authorities or local groups buying and managing these 'small commercial woods' (often covering hundreds of acres) without being given money to do so.
The Forestry Commission did not, presumably, have to buy their woods and they have, of course, been given a budget to manage them. Most, I suspect, are not ‘commercial’ and will have made little, if any, money but they are partly there, of course, to create a timber reserve should we be blockaded as we were in past wars.
In calling for charities and local groups to step in, the government may be offering the woods and forests but not the money to run them. Indeed, they want payment.
Anyway, to his considerable credit The Rt. Hon John Redwood replied this morning saying “The government has said it will reconsider designations, so I suggest you write in with others and propose an upgrade.”
Thus it is essential that we list the important ‘small commercial woodlands', in Sussex (and other areas if you are there) and together propose they are upgraded to heritage forests and woods, perhaps with some rationale accorded to each of them.