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The Sunday Telegraph has published a letter signed by nearly 100 dignitaries speaking out against the announcement to sell off 15 percent of the government’s forests.

Save England’s Forests, a new campaign group, has gained the support of signatories Annie Lennox, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Bill Bryson.

Bryson, who sits as president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE), recently supported the CPRE’s Gloucestershire branch in questioning proposal’s to sell land in the Forest of Dean. They are calling for the forest to be protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The Forestry Commission owns roughly 620,000 acres of land in England, including the Forest of Dean, New Forest and parts of Sherwood Forest. Along with the current 15% sale proposal, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched a consultation which will put forward plans to sell of the remaining 85%.

Prime Minister David Cameron promised to make his time in office the greenest in British history. A recent poll shows that 75 per cent of people oppose the plans to sell off the forests, with some questioning whether this plan is the way to go about greening the country.

Campaigners are concerned that selling the land will leave it vulnerable destruction and lack of proper maintenance, as well as to development into housing estates and golf courses.

Others who have signed the letter include Carol Ann Duffy, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Save England’s Forest letter states:

“We, who love and use the English forests, believe that such a sale would be misjudged and shortsighted.
“It is our national heritage. We are an island nation yet more people escape to the forest than to the seaside.
“Our forests nurture countless species of native plants and wildlife. We have relied on them since time immemorial yet we are only a heartbeat in their history. We who know the value of the forests fear that over time, the public’s access to them will be limited and their protection, eroded.
“We, the undersigned, believe it unconscionable that future generations will not be able to enjoy the guarantee of a public forest estate.
“The Government should remove the three ill-conceived clauses from the Public Bodies Bill, and suspend any significant sales, until the public has been fully consulted.”

Save England’s Forests’ president Rachel Johnson, writer and sister of London mayor Boris Johnson, said: “An extraordinary coalition of the Great and the Good has responded to the Government’s proposals to sell England’s forests. The diverse and distinguished signatories of our letter could stand as the mouthpiece of the nation. Our message, in no uncertain terms, is that the Government cannot rush through legislation that will change our English countryside forever.”

For more information on how you can get involved, visit the CPRE and the Save England’s Forests websites.


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