Campaigners sign up to stop woods sell-off

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A PETITION containing more than 100 signatures has been presented to Market Rasen MP Edward Leigh.

Sue Pendrick and Catherine Wilson met with Mr Leigh to air their concerns at the planned government sell off of forestry commission woodlands.

“We made him aware that there was a great deal of anger and disquiet amongst ordinary local people who value the woodlands and the public access to them,” Mrs Pendrick told the Rasen Mail after the meeting.

“The petition contained more than 100 signatures, which were gathered in just one morning in Wragby, Market Rasen and surrounding villages.”

Although a number of issues were discussed, Mrs Pendrick said they still felt there were many unanswered questions.

“There was no satisfactory explanation as to the need for this sell-off; no clear idea of how woodlands may be managed in the future; no idea of timetable; no real commitment to maintaining biodiversity,” she said.

Mr Leigh told the Mail: “Over the last week or so, a Tsunami of letters has washed over my office from constituents petitioning me not to vote to sell off our woodlands.

“I haven’t yet, and I won’t do so until assured that privatisation will take place under the strictest conditions, guaranteeing the preservation of ancient forests and public right of way.

“As president of the Lincolnshire Rambler Association and the representative for a beautiful rural constituency, I have a special interest in keeping woodland open and unspoilt. My voting patterns in the House of Commons will reflect this.

“It is pleasing that so many constituents are voicing opinions on this matter too, because localism needs your opinions to work properly.

“I have sought assurance on the floor of the house from Caroline Spelman, (Secretary of State for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) that public rights of access to woodland would be improved by the plans.

“She gave me that assurance, on the record, and I have voted for a motion that guarantees rights of access in the lease conditions, should the woodland be sold.”

Although the proposed sale of 15 per cent of forestry land has been temporarily suspended, while extra protections on access and biodiversity are put in place, consultation on future management of the other 85 per cent of the public forest estate continues to April 21.