The UK Government has confirmed rumours of a massive sell-off of Forestry Commission woodland, which could include areas popular with mountain bikers such as Cannock Chase, the Forest of Dean and Grizedale Forest.
In a letter circulated to MPs, Farm Minister Jim Paice outlined the intention to radically alter the public forestry estate "with diminishing public ownership and a greater role for private and civil society partners". The aim is to raise funds to help pay off the Budget deficit.
The government could sell up to half of the 1.85 million acres of woodland currently managed by the Forestry Commission, which Paice's letter states "covers only 18 percent of England’s wooded areas".
This includes mountain biking hubs like Hamsterley, Whinlatter, Delamere, Dalby, Cannock Chase, Sherwood Pines, Wyre forest and Haldon Forest Park. According to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs: “All of the Forestry Commission’s sites are included in the proposals.”
A spokesman for DEFRA told our sister site PhotoRadar that he was unsure wether the proposal would need to pass a vote in the Commmons, but added that the government would hold a public consultation where people can express their concerns. This should last approximately 12 weeks.
The Foresty Commission’s Paddy Harrop told us: “We can’t say what the changes are likely to be”. He said the consultation would give mountain bikers a chance to voice their views on the future management of forestry land, and suggested that voluntary groups like Singletraction are likely to have more input in future.
Paice’s letter states: "We will not compromise the protection of our most valuable and biodiverse forests. Full measures will remain in place to preserve the public benefits of woods and forests under any new ownership arrangements."