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Forest claims are answered

Readers' letters | Published:

I write regarding the Guardian’s recent dismantling of the partnership between the Forestry Commission and Forest Holidays.

Wooden eco cabins are planned for Mortimer Forest

This as-yet-unfettered-by-legislation cosy arrangement has, I think, only been able to perpetuate because of the public’s ignorance of it.

When privatisation of the forest estate was mooted in 2011 the public reaction was understandably one of absolute opposition, and the idea was hastily thrown out. However, back then local communities would at least have been able to bid to buy tracts of forest to ensure that people were still able to enjoy what was theirs anyway. This is worse.

Forest Holidays’ latest proposed venture is into Mortimer Forest, a particularly lovely part of north Herefordshire

The Forestry Commission, in its backing of this latest Forest Holidays scheme, described the small hill they want to build 68 (yes 68!) chalets on as ‘ecologically dull’. Well, they would wouldn’t they? That dull hill is home to many rare and endangered species of mammals, birds and reptiles.

For what it’s worth I was there recently and came face to face with a stag. If the Forest Holidays bulldozer gets clearance from Herefordshire Council, in two years that stag will be replaced by a hot tub. The chief executive of Forest Holidays has arranged a charm offensive with the horrified local populace. If he’s so convinced that his company is oh-so-caring, perhaps he could state his case in front of the relevant select committee?

This quote from him is particularly chilling: “The (Forestry) Commission has a million hectares of forest, so we’ve got plenty to keep us going for many years to come.”

He doesn’t really get the point of environmental protection just occasionally trumping monopolistic exploitation does he?

I don’t want this destruction of our forests, enabling a handful of people in the city to make money, to happen on my watch. It’s utterly wrong. I hope you feel the same. If so, I really hope you can do something about it.

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Mark Jones, Ludlow

Forestry Commission and Forest Holidays response:

A spokesperson for the Forestry Commission and Forest Holidays said: “Since we held our public exhibitions about proposals for Mortimer Forest, unfortunately incorrect information has been circulated and shared online and in the media.

“The simple fact is the nation’s forests remain in trust for the nation, a commitment repeated in the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan. The forests remain owned by the public, cared for and controlled by the Forestry Commission.

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“The proposals at Mortimer Forest are the result of a partnership between our two organisations.

This model, created by the Forestry Commission, today successfully operates in nine UK forests including four in National Parks.

The partnership brings significant investment and widespread benefits to local economies and our track record of commitment to the neighbouring communities is clear across the UK.

“We have listened to views locally and answered some of the most important questions people may be asking as a result of the misinformation. Go to forestry.gov.uk/forestry/beeh-aytbb6.”

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