Whinlatter Forest, scene of the search

Whinlatter Forest, site of the second Lakeland rally

Campaigners against the sell-off of the Lake District’s public forests are planning a second rally after a crowd of 1,500 came to their first event.

The Grizedale Forest gathering saw Cumbria MPs John Woodcock and Tim Farron and former Forestry Commission chairman Lord Clark of Windermere ripping up copies of the Public Bodies Reform Bill which would allow ministers to sell off land with no Parliamentary debate.

Now, a rally in the Lake District’s only mountain forest has been called by Save Lakeland’s Forests for later this month at Whinlatter. Lord Clark will be joined by Jack Ellerby from the Friends of the Lake District, and Britain’s best known mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington, who lives not far from Whinlatter.

Sir Chris said: “I urge all those who value these wonderful green spaces to join the campaign to keep our forests in public ownership and public management. By coming to Whinlatter on the 19 February you can show the Government that their plans are completely unacceptable to people in Cumbria.

“It is vital that we keep up the pressure on the Government to abandon plans to transfer our public forests to private sector owners.  If the sale of forests and woodlands across the Lake District and other parts of England go ahead it will be a disaster for public access and wildlife protection.”

Organisers want to put pressure on MPs and peers to amend the Public Bodies Bill, which would give the Government the power to sell off all the public forests. At the moment they cannot sell more than 15 per cent. A consultation on the plans opened this week, but the legislation is already passing through Parliament. Campaigners are pressing for the removal of clauses 17 and 18.

Lord Clark says: “The fact that the Government already has legislation in Parliament to sell all our public forests shows that their consultation is just a sham. We want the clauses that would give them the power to do this taken out of the bill so we can have a proper debate about the future of our forests.

“The rally at Whinlatter will help to show MPs, peers and the Government how strongly we all feel.  We also want people to write to their MPs and to members of the House of Lords.”

Jack Ellerby says: “If you love woodlands and enjoy walking or riding in local Forestry Commission woods, now is the time to stand up and join the campaign to keep these woods in public hands and under sustainable management.

Everest summiteer Sir Chris Bonington: 'Vital that we keep up the pressure on the Government

Everest summiteer Sir Chris Bonington: 'Vital that we keep up the pressure on the Government

“The coalition Government wants to sell off our woodlands and right now this means 30 to 40 per cent of the woodlands in the Lake District national park could pass into private ownership, with free access for cycling, horse riding, canoeists, and picnic areas potentially closed off. What effect will that have on local people’s enjoyment and tourists and the revenue they bring to the area?

“Private owners of forests will have profit in mind, which could mean a return to large tracts of fast growing non-native spruce, and all the wildlife and habitat deterioration that could bring.”

More than 1,100 people have now joined the Save Lakeland’s Forests’ Facebook page or are following the group on Twitter.  And more than 400,000 people have signed a national petition organised by 38 Degrees against the Government’s plans in a movement that has united all shades of political opinion and many diverse users of England’s countryside.

Ahead of today’s Commons debate, the Ramblers called on MPs to stand up for public access in England’s woodlands.

Chief executive Tom Franklin said: “Our message is simple: no access, no sale. The public should be able to access and enjoy their local woodland, wherever they live in Britain.

“England’s woodlands bring a huge amount of public benefit and enjoyment and it seems contradictory to decrease access to the great outdoors at a time when obesity and obesity related health problems on the rise.

“This Wednesday MPs will debate the future of England’s woodlands and we’re urging politicians to protect one of life’s simple pleasures and stand up for access to our woods.”

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

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  2. Cameron admits he’s not happy with forest plans
  3. Walkers and mountain bikers urged to join rally against sell-offs