Government's forestry response 'very positive indeed', say Forest of Dean campaigners
AN independent public body will be set up to safeguard the Forest of Dean for future generations.
Government chiefs yesterday revealed their response to the report drawn up by the Forestry Panel in the wake of a failed bid to sell off public woodlands.
The new body will work alongside the Forestry Commission to "own, maintain and safeguard our forests on behalf of the public," Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said.
It met with favour from campaigners in the Dean who wanted to see the plans implemented, free from politics.
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Rich Daniels, chairman of the Hands Off Our Forest (HOOF) group, said: "We've fought this battle three times over the years now and won three times and we don't want it to happen again.
"The independent body has to be free from political influence for that to happen.
"I think overall it's very positive indeed.
"They have listened to the panel's findings and we are a million miles away now from where we were two years ago."
He said HOOF's role now would be to continue having a "proactive" involvement in shaping the future of the Forest of Dean.
The new independent body will take time to be formed, as new legislation needs to be drawn up. But it is envisaged it will be operationally independent of Government, yet ultimately accountable to Parliament.
The new body will have clear statutory duties, powers and functions focused on "maximising the economic, social and environmental value" of the forestry estate, including a requirement to improve its financial sustainability.
One possibility is it will be advised by a group of "expert guardians", including community representatives.
Mr Paterson said: "A new, independent body will ensure our woods are held in trust and managed for the long term benefit of future generations, nature and the economy."