Access to all woodland ‘the norm’
England’s public forestry should be retained, public access to it protected and similar levels of access to the country’s other woodland should be the norm – so says an Independent Panel on the future of England’s woods, whose final report was presented to the Government in July.
Set up by the Coalition after huge public protests against proposals to sell off parts of the Forestry Commission estate last year, the Panel recognised ‘the quality of access to the public forest estate is unrivalled,’ and that ‘securing this access for the nation, for the long term, is a central part of our case for retaining a national public forest estate’. It also recommended setting measurable targets for increasing the level and quality of access to privately owned woodland using grants as incentives, and says more trees should be planted ‘to give as many people as possible ready access to trees and woodland for health and wellbeing benefits’.
“The announcement will be good news for the thousands of walkers and woodland lovers who protested against the proposed sale of public woodland last year,” says Ramblers Chief Executive Benedict Southworth. “The Panel, which included representatives from landowners and industry, has told us something that we all knew in our hearts to be true: all English people should have access to a walk in the woods.
“The aspiration of the report is one that not only sees the continuation of a strong public forest estate, but a future
where every person has access to a local woodland – something that the Ramblers has campaigned for passionately. We will continue to work to help make this aspiration a reality and urge the Government to put concrete measures in place to move this
For more about the report, read Panel member Tom Franklin’s opinion piece from the Autumn 2012 issue of walk.
Image: European Environment Agency/John McConnico.