A welcome of eggs for Forest of Dean MP in heated public meeting
EGGS were hurled at Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper as hundreds of people descended on Coleford to quiz him on the Government’s forestry proposals.
Although Secretary of State Caroline Spelman said last week that the Forest of Dean would not be sold off, she left the door open for it to be taken over by a charitable trust.
Friday’s meeting was the first chance residents have had to quiz Mr Harper about the proposals after he turned down invitations to attend a meeting in Cinderford and the Hands Off Our Forest (Hoof) rally at Speech House last month.
With more than 100 people crammed into the small meeting room inside Coleford’s Main Place building, there were more than 300 placard-wielding campaigners stood outside the venue.
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Mr Harper was taken out of the rear exit of the building at the end of the meeting and bundled into a police van as he made his departure with eggs being thrown at him.
He said: “Eggs were thrown, and I had a fairly good idea beforehand that something like that might happen. None of them hit me, though.
“It’s a shame a handful of people were there to cause violence, and they let others down. I think the meeting was a great opportunity to speak to people about the proposals and especially to reinforce that the Government is not planning to sell the Forest of Dean.”
“Some people insist on believing that that is the case, and that is up to them, but I can assure you it is not.”
Chants of “Hands off our Forest” and “Get Harper out” could be heard from outside throughout the meeting.
Mr Harper was bombarded with questions for two hours.
The biggest cheer of the night came after Rich Daniels, from Staunton, said: “Why don’t you do the honourable thing for your people and call a halt to it now. Just say that you’ve made a mistake and lets all get on with our business.”
Sarah Albon, from Alvington, said: “It’s quite obvious this is not what the people of Britain want. People believe it works as it is. Why are you not working with the Forestry Commission to make it more effective? Are you going to just forge ahead with this anyway? Is this consultation going to make any difference?”
Mr Harper said: “This isn’t about saving money, it’s about what works best.
“Ministers have said that all the privileges currently enjoyed in the Forest will be protected whatever happens. In no way do we want to harm what already takes place.”
He added: “We are not going to sell the Forest of Dean. I have been clear on that for the past couple of months, but I wanted to wait until I had the relevant documents in front of me before holding a public meeting so I could back that up.”