Caution on forest sell-off ‘U-turn’

Dalby Forest
Dalby Forest

A SCARBOROUGH councillor says he believes yesterday’s Government announcement on the forestry sell-off is a “hollow gesture”.

Eric Broadbent, who represents Central ward, believes that despite an apparent U-turn on the controversial plans to sell 40,000 acres of state-owned woodland, the issue will rear its head again in the future.

The Labour councillor had launched a petition against proposals to privatise the forests - which include Dalby Forest, Broxa, Harwood Dale, Langdale and Wykeham in the Scarborough area - and says he will continue gathering signatures.

He said: “It may look like they’ve done a U-turn, but we think they’ll be back. We need to keep the pressure on.

“The Government may sell off the family silver but they must not sell off the family land.”

Cllr Broadbent added that the petition had already attracted 300 signatures and he was hoping for many more.

He said: “So far we’ve been inundated with people ringing up, emailing and signing the petition. People are saying this land belongs to us.”

He will be in the town centre on Saturday from 10.30am gathering more signatures and support.

The Government confirmed yesterday that the current consultation on the future of the forests was being halted.

Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman told MPs the Government had “got this one wrong”.

It is understood a new panel of experts will be set up to look at public access and biodiversity within the publicly owned woodland.

Scarborough’s MP Robert Goodwill said: “I think it’s very commendable that Caroline Spelman has listened to the large number of people that made representations following the launch of the consultation.

“One of the things that has come out of this consultation is looking at how public access to woodland can be enhanced.

“It’s not just walkers who want to go into forests, it’s cyclists and horseriders too. It would be worth looking at ways to improve these kinds of access in particular.”

Mr Goodwill added that the panel will report back in the Autumn and the Government will then look at the best way forward.