The BBC reports this morning that David Cameron is set to abolish the consultatin process.  Whilst the phrase in the article "..Instead, it is understood a new panel of experts will be set up to look at public access and biodiversity within the publicly owned woodland..." makes me think they've not entirely given up, but it's a great result.

After the Meeting

I've started this blog to create a place for all interested parties in Suffolk Forests to share the arguments we are putting individually to Dr Coffey.  I went to the Meeting in Rendlesham on 11th Feb and came away realising what a mass of individual knowledge was present in the room, and what a shame that Dr Coffey was making notes on a scrap of paper.   We need to make sure there is somewhere we can all put down our arguments against the sale, so that there can be no danger of these being lost.  I have tried posting questions to Dr Coffey's blog (link on the right hand side of this page) but after a week these still haven't appeared.  If you represent one of the groups present in Rendlesham please send an email to  info@saveSuffolkForests.com and we can sort out a way for you to present your arguments and questions here.

Once we have some momentum on this site we can all start to let Dr Coffey know about it, and hopefully publish any comments we hear from her.

If you want to email your own comments to Dr Coffey and Caroline Spellman (Secretary of State for the Department of Environment,Food and Rural Affairs) then please click on the link below:

eMail Dr Therese Coffey and Caroline Spellman

For those unable to attend the first meeting I have been sent a summary, reproduced below:

Essentially, the weight of feeling about this was so great that over 100 people were left outside as the venue was too small.

The meeting had some very impressive and informed people attend including 1 or 2 from the Foresty Commission, ecologists and even an economist from Imperial College London.

Essentially Dr. Coffee stated that the reasons were in part financial and she was essentially unable to be accurate about other reasons. She suggested it was due to the underperformance of the Foretry Commission (FC) and that the FC held a monopoly.

The representative from the FC pointed out that the Forestry commission do not hold a monopoly as only 33% of UK forests are publicly owned. He also pointed out that in terms of efficiency that in East Anglia they had met all their targets and nationally that they produce 70% of UK timber from 17% of the foresty land.

The economist pointed out that although 660 million was the gross figure for the proposed sale that the net income would be only 20 million and in the long term will probably make even less.

Access was also discussed at length and concerns over this were voiced.

Although Dr. Coffee tried to reassure people that access etc would be protected the point was made that the Government would not be at all sure about the credentials of who they sold to and what they would do to the land once it was privately owned.

Another member of meeting outlined the fact that on the so called consultation committee were representatives from industry including mineral companies-they of couse are unlikely to be concerned with conservation whilst there are minerals to be plundered.

Dr. Coffee was asked frequently whether or not she would take the concerns of her constituents back to Central Office and vote against it in the Commons and she avoided answering either of these questions.

Finally, everyone attending was urged to post their comments on the Consultation Document. It was also noted that the document is of course weighted-It asks essentially "How would you like us to sell off your Forests" rather than "Would you like us to sell them off?"


A gentleman from the Ramblers Association stood up and talked about how the sale of forests can result in increased amount of fencing, which leads to the creation of kissing gates / stiles etc, all of which are 'pinch-points' - where increased frequency of footfall over a small area can turn the land into an impassable quagmire.

The National Ramblers Organisation has 5 steps it wants to see accomplished before any sell-off is agreed to.  These are:
1) Public access is maintained and enhanced;
2) Public rights of way and access land are properly managed;
3) No sale or transfer is completed until the purchaser has committed to preserving and maintaining access;
4) Where access is currently not secured in law, this is remedied through CROW Act dedication;
5) The local community is consulted and given the opportunity to play a full and active part in woodland management, including first-refusal on purchase.


During the initial meeting with Dr Coffey an economist from Imperial College London made a comment which I will try to reproduce as closely as possible from memory.  She picked up on Dr Coffey's comment about The Forestry Commission being a monopoly like Tesco's, and explained that a Natural Monopoly can be a good thing in certain circumstances, as it can provide a home for expertise.  She also went on to explain that selling a resource would only produce short-term financial gain.  As I understand the figures, the sale of forests would net in roughly £650Million, and the Forestry Commission currently makes £440Million a year.  


During the meeting a gentleman who described himself (I believe) as an environmentalist pointed out that the Forestry Commission managed to produce 70% of all UK timber from just 17% of all UK forests, whilst managing to satisfy biodiversity targets and access issues.

Horse Riders

This page will be used to publish horse riders concerns, questions and arguments against the Forestry Commission sale.  For now I've reproduced a letter which was sent to the EADT which details horse-riders (and cyclists) access concerns:

Sir, – Re the future of the Public Forest Estate in England.
I note from your “Fears for forests” articles (EADT, Friday, January 28) that there is some confusion on all sides about access rights for the public if and when the Suffolk forests are sold.
Defra’s consultation document,
The Future of the Public Forest Estate, contains many references to the Government wishing to safeguard public access. This sentiment was repeated by Dr Therese Coffey MP in your article on page five.
When Dr Coffey says that “people will enjoy access to the forests as they do today”, sadly this is not the case for everyone.
Where Forestry Commission land has been designated as Open Access land by the Countryside and Rights Of Way Act 2000, access rights for walkers only will remain once the freehold is sold.
Currently the access for horse riders on Forestry Commission land is by virtue of a concordat agreement with the British Horse Society. Once the freehold of the land has been transferred, this concordat will no longer apply. Horse riders will lose their access to the forests.
Access to Forestry Commission land for cyclists has been included in the Forestry Commission Byelaws ever since the forests were created. Once the freehold of the land has been transferred, the byelaws will no longer apply. Cyclists will lose their access to the forests.
Where there are bridleways, restricted byways or byways recorded on the Definitive Map across Forestry Commission land, access for horse riders and cyclists will remain.
However, there are very few such routes compared to the miles of safe, off-road riding currently enjoyed by horse riders and cyclists in Suffolk’s forests under the concordat and byelaws.
So while the Government may give assurance that they will protect public access, that access is not as they are implying, but just relates to those legal designations that are already in place. Horse riders and cyclists will lose out completely.
While the Government is expecting new private owners, including charities, to ‘consider opportunities to provide public access that goes beyond any legal requirements.’ (Page 17 Consultation on the Public Forest Estate, January 27) there is no guarantee that any new owner will do anything other than “consider”.
There is, however, a solution! Before the Forest Estate is sold, those forest areas that riders regularly use, which are currently designated as Open Access land, can be dedicated with higher rights for horse riders in
perpetuity under Section 16 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 by the freeholder – the Forestry Commission.
Now is the time to lobby to achieve a legal right of open access for horse riders and cyclists to the current Public Forest Estate in perpetuity.
SYLVIA BALLARD, Sudbourne, Woodbridge.


Mike Moore, chairman of local mountain bike group TROG, who use Tunstall and Rendlesham forests, said: “Previous experience shows us that when private landowners come in they close car parks and make access as difficult as possible. What protections will be there to stop it happening again?”

There was a useful study done in 2003 in New Zealand which details the impact of Mountain Biking, drawing the conclusion they cause no more adverse affect on the land than walkers (and, oddly enough, horses).   This is an important study for all 3 parties, as it implies access levels should be the same for all.

Study into the impact of Mountain Biking