Campaign starts to save forests

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THE fight to save Scarborough’s forests from potential sale has been galvanised by a campaign to protect their future.

A petition led by Cllr Eric Broadbent and Scarborough-born prospective borough councillor and former Morley MP Colin Challen attracted more than 300 names in less than two hours.

A public consultation into forestry management was recently launched on behalf of the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Government proposals to privatise the forests - which include Dalby Forest, Broxa, Harwood Dale, Langdale and Wykeham in the Scarborough area - have already received criticism and forced the government into putting their 15 per cent sell-off plans on hold.

Cllr Broadbent said public feeling on the town’s streets was damning and had invoked a lot of anger and disappointment.

He said: “We actually stayed there longer than we intended because of the fantastic support we received from the public. The feeling from everyone is that we have five beautiful forests in the Scarborough area which we they do not want to be sold off. We believe the government will carry on with the plans if we do not do something like this to show the public feeling that people don’t want to see the forests go private.”

The petition is part of a campaign by local Labour Party members to reverse the plan. It came as the government signalled a partial U-turn with its announcement last week that a planned 15% sell-off was being put on hold.

Mr Challen added: “There was quite a lot of anger that the government could contemplate selling off our forests, even into foreign ownership. It was also the case that many people thought last week’s announcement meant the whole sell-off plan had been shelved.

“However, as Defra has made clear, the temporary suspension of a planned sale of 15 per cent of the forests will in no way prevent the eventual 100 per cent sale of Forestry Commission woodlands.”

However, Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill has previously stated that consultation was imperative.

He added: “It is right to consider who is best placed to own and manage our forests and what role there can be for government, communities, charitable trusts and the private sector.

“This is not an unthinking sell-off, it is an open-minded look at how we can best secure the future of our forest estate.”

Campaigners will be collecting more names in Scarborough again this Saturday. Anyone who wishes to take participate in the public consultation process can do so by emailing publicconsultation@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or by logging on to www.forestry.gov.uk