Welcome to the campaign page to Save our Sandlings Forest

The  Sandlings Forest  (i.e. Dunwich, Tunstall and Rendlesham Forests)  is currently  managed for the benefit of our nation by the Forestry Commission. The Sandlings Forest is the 17th largest FC managed public estate forest in England.

This campaign group was formed as a direct response to the Governments announcement that they wished to divest themselves of the responsibility of running the Public Forest Estate.  There was a public outcry at this proposal  and on 17th February 2011 Caroline Spelman . the then Secretary of State cancelled the original public consultation into the future of the Public Forest Estate and removed references to England’s Forests in the Public Bodies Bill. 

The public outcry was a key factor in instigating this U-turn. But that was not the end of the matter. 

The Secretary of State  set up an “independent” panel of experts to look into the future role of the Forestry Commission.   They reported in July 2012.  The Government has now formally responded to the panel's recommendations on 31st January 2013.  The campaign issued the following statement on 1st February 2013

We  welcome the Government's response to the forestry panel’s recommendation for the future of our forests.


There is a lot of detail to digest in the statement, and a lot more detail to come, but our initial response is positive.


Forest users and those who care about our forests spoke up for them over the past two years, and the Government has listened. We are pleased that the Government is engaging those who represented forest users as they work up the detail for the future of our public forests.


We welcome commitments from the Government:


  • to keep the public forest estate in public ownership in perpetuity

  • to confirm that forests and woodlands will not be sold to balance the books, and to formally rescind the suspended sale 15% of the public forest estate

  • to engage stakeholders, communities, and those who spoke up for our forests, in developing how they are run in future

  • to increase and improve public access to woodland, including private woodlands

  • to increase tree cover and provide woodlands accessible to where people live


Although the Government has not committed to providing the £22 million a year we believe is needed to make sure everyone can enjoy the high standard of public benefits from our public forests -- access, facilities, education, and to make sure our forests are protected -- and has not yet committed funding beyond 2014, we very much welcome the provision of some funding to give a breathing space in the short term.


We are disappointed that the Forestry Commission now seems likely to be split up, but we believe the Government does understand the need to adequately fund Forest Research and Forest Services to make sure our forests are protected from diseases such as ash dieback and how they can be improved into the future. We believe it is very important that there is a strong organisation promoting and protecting woods and forests and would not want to see forestry merged in with other land management bodies in any review of those organisations.


It is fair to say we have come a long way since the campaign was launched.    The Government announcement confirms there has been a complete change of direction ~  they have listened and responded to the public concern.

We have been working with the Government, the Forestry Commission and other Community Group representatives in developing the organisation to run the public forest estate developed from Forest Enterprise (the part of the Forestry Commission which currently runs it so well) - what it will do, how it will be funded and how stakeholders will have a voice.

On 29th January 2014, the Government confirmed the 10 core principles that underpin it's plans on restructuring the Public Forest estate. 

Dan Rogerson MP ~ the Under-Secretary of State who is now responsible for Forestry affairs, told the national Forestry stakeholders meeting :

"These principles are that the new PFE management body should:

1. conserve and enhance the estate for the benefit of people, nature and the economy.
2. be publicly-owned and operationally independent of Government.
3. be underpinned by statute and have a Charter.
4. be managed by experts and have access to the best advice.
5. have commercial freedoms but will be required to protect the estate.
6. be able to buy and sell land, but any land sales must be for the benefit of the estate.
7. be a pioneer in natural capital accounting and payment for ecosystem services.
8. work closely with local communities, estate users and businesses. It will have consultation at its heart.
9. be an exemplar of sustainable forest management.
10. build on the strengths of Forest Enterprise England.

These principles are being used to inform the development of our legislative plans which include undertaking pre-legislative scrutiny. This process provides stakeholders with an opportunity to comment on draft provisions and allows the relevant parliamentary select committee to take evidence from interested parties in preparing its report. Government reviews the draft legislation in light of the committee's report."

A  Bill to enable the establishment of a new Public Body was then drafted and was ready for presentation to Parliament for full public and Parliamentary pre-legislative scrutiny. The Government however, for reasons that were never disclosed , declined to include this draft Bill in  final Queen's Speech of this Parliament. We therefore may never know  if the new proposals would have provided the safeguards we have been seeking which should secure the Public Forest Estate in public ownership for decades to come.

A new Government, once elected,  may wish to progress these plans ~ if this is their will, a draft bill is ready for consideration by Parliament.  But it is by no means certain that they will agree with a previous Government's proposals.  They may also have other plans for legislation which are deemed to have  higher priority.

We now face another period of uncertainty.  For now the Public Forest Estate remains within the Forestry Commission and,being part of  DEFRA , it will continue to receive public funds. The outlook for what Governments might spend on Public services in the future however does not look encouraging ~ we fear there will need to be more austerity measures as the public purse is squeezed once again..

The Sandlings Forest Users Group is a member of the National  Forest Campaigns Network   (FCN)  and we are working with these other campaign groups  to coordinate responses as and when there is an appropriate opportunity.  



Click  here   to view the latest press releases that have been issued on behalf of the Network.  Visit our Facebook page to keep in touch with developments.


Please join the local campaign to Save Sandlings Forest 

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Elsewhere within this site you will find information  showing how this public asset can be freely enjoyed.   Long may this be the case.

Click  here  to return to Visitors Home page.  Click  here to view where the Forestry Commission Public Estates can be found.

This site is provided and maintained by the Sandlings Forest Users group ~ an independent body made up of representatives of clubs and organisations who enjoy recreational activities within the Sandlings Forest.