By Elliot Furniss East Anglian Daily Times & Ipswich Star ~ Monday, February 4, 2013
Clive Coles, of Save Sandlings Forests Group, in Rendlesham Forest
CONSERVATIONISTS have welcomed the Government’s response to recommendations for the future of the country’s woodland.
The Save Sandlings Forests campaign aims to protect public woodland in Dunwich, Tunstall and Rendlesham.
It has reacted to the Government’s response to the July 2012 report by the independent forestry panel – established to make recommendations after plans to sell off public forests were scrapped – which suggested a £22million nationwide investment.
A statement from the group, which is co-ordinated by Imogen Radford and Clive Coles, said there was “a lot of detail to digest” in the Government’s statement, published last week, and a lot more detail to come, but its initial response was a “positive” one.
The statement said: “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 the Government is engaging those who represented forest users as they work up the detail for the future of our public forests.
“Although the Government has not committed to providing the £22m 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.”
The statement added: “We are disappointed that the Forestry Commission is 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.”
Suffolk: Forest group presses for ‘proper’ funding
Tom Potter Coastal Scene ~ Monday,
January 14, 2013
WOODLAND campaigners in Suffolk are urging the Government to heed recommendations for investment in public forests.
The Save Sandlings Forests campaign, which aims to protect public woodland in Dunwich, Tunstall and Rendlesham, has joined calls for “proper funding” in the wake of cuts to Forestry Commission spending.
It comes just weeks ahead of the Government’s response to the July 2012 report by the independent forestry panel – established by the Government to make recommendations after it called off plans to sell off public forests –which suggests a £22m nationwide investment.
Endorsing an open letter from the forest campaigns network to environment ministers and Chancellor George Osborne, the campaign revealed the impact of imposed savings on maintaining the Sandlings territory.
Imogen Radford, co-ordinator of the campaign with Clive Coles, said the Sandlings forest area had already been affected by cuts made under the Government’s last spending review programme in 2010, with half of the staff from the Forestry Commission office at Tangham gone, no Christmas tree sales at Rendlesham because of staff shortages, and a popular trail removed and no longer maintained. She added: “It is not the end of the world but it is indicative of cuts to staff, who work extremely hard in difficult circumstances.
“It is difficult to see how the job can be done to the best of their abilities.
“People’s ability to enjoy the forest is being whittled away and we want the Government to acknowledge the really positive vision of the independent panel and invest the recommended £22m.”
Rendlesham: Forest campaigners seek long-term guarantees
By Tom Potter East Anglian Daily Times ~ Friday, October 12, 2012
Visitors to Rendlesham Forest have lent support to a campaign for the long-term security of the region’s public woodland.
Members of the Save Sandlings Forests group attached more than 50 signatures to a letter addressed to environment and forestry ministers, and nearly 30 additional comments about how visitors value and use the area.
The campaign was set up in response to Government proposals to transfer 258,000 hectares of Public Forest Estate into private ownership.
Public outcry led to Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman’s decision to put the sale on hold and appoint a panel of independent advisers to make recommendations on the future of forestry.
But campaigners continue to push for assurances that Rendlesham Forest and Suffolk’s Sandlings Forest estate, which also includes Dunwich and Tunstall, are retained and managed by a “properly resourced” Forestry Commission.
The campaign collected the opinions of visitors at the end of last month and will now send its conclusions to the Department of Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for consideration before the Government is expected to present a full response to the independents panel’s report early next year.
The standard letter to ministers welcomes the retention of publicly-owned forests but asks for assurances that the Forestry Commission will be properly funded to at least current levels.
Many of those canvassed on the day came from nearby towns and included Jothi and Lucy Barnsley-Sadasivan, who were visiting from Martlesham with their three children, Sidney, Jonas and Nico, and said: “With three very active boys the forest provides the perfect environment to unwind and connect with nature and a safe place for the whole family and friends. Long live the forest!”
The government is set to announce its a response to the independent forestry panel’s report in early 2013 but has already revealed it will accept the recommendation not to sell off woodland.
The panel visited several forests before publishing an interim report in December 2011 and a final report this summer.
It followed a 500,000 signature online petition to keep forests in public hands.
Forestry panel's progress report
By Craig Robinson and Tom Potter East Anglian Daily Times ~ Friday December 9, 2011
SUFFOLK: Campaigners say findings are 'encouraging'
A progress report by a group set up to look at the future of the country's woodland has been welcomed by campaigners fighting to protect forests in Suffolk.
The Independent Panel on Forestry yesterday said there was a "continuing role" for a national public forest estate. It also said it was developing recommendations that will "increase the benefits generated from all forests in England".
The panel, which will publish it's final report next spring, was set up earlier this year after Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman dropped controversial plans to sell off or transfer public woodland.
The plans sparked fierce criticism amongst woodland users and cast doubt over the future of Suffolk's Sandlings Forests - which include Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich - and Thetford Forest.
Clive Coles, of Save Sandlings Forests, welcomed the preliminary report. "There are a few potential banana skins but I am quite encouraged by it," he said. "The way they [the panel] appear to be going , they are clearly looking at more than just the Forestry Commission estate. They extend their remit to all woodlands which I think is right.
"I believe the Forestry Commission has demonstrated it is capable of looking after a multi functional public asset. Some of the forests in private hands are not adequately managed. I think at the end of this exercise we could end up with a very valuable way forward for all forest owners in terms of best practice.
"In February we thought the Forestry Commission was in danger of being shut down and going into private ownership - I don't see that coming out of this report. Of course the Government don't need to take any notice of it but I think that will be very difficult".
The Forestry Commission faces cuts to a quarter of it's £50 million budget over the next four years. The Government put on hold a sale of 15% of the forest estate in February and since then the independent panel chairman James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, has visited locations around the country with his team to gather evidence.
He said "Although our panel was born out of fierce debate over the future of the public forest estate, what has become apparent through our work so far is that we must look at the future of all woods and forests, not just the one fifth managed by the Forestry Commission.
“Through the 42,000 responses to our call for views, the public expressed their passion for forests . These responses, along with the many people we have met on our visits, have helped inform our report.”
For now, all of our work, especially in relation to the woods and forests outside of the public forest estate needs further development in the run up to making recommendations in our final report next year".
The Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, who chairs the Independent Panel on Forestry
Progress report on future of England’s forests published today
Chambers Thursday, December 8, 2011
A PANEL set up in the wake of a fierce debate over the future of England’s woods and forests publishes a progress report today as its seeks “a wider range of benefits for more people” from them.
The Independent Panel on Forestry, was set up to advise the Government on the future of England’s forests, following a Coalition u-turn on privatisation plans for Forestry Commission land.
The panel says it is working towards recommendations that will increase the benefits generated from all forests in England, including to the people that enjoy them, to nature and to the businesses that rely on them.
The recommendations will be made in their final report to Government next spring, following a visit to East Anglia in March.
The Right Reverend James Jones Bishop of Liverpool, who chairs the panel, said: “Although our panel was born out of fierce debate over the future of the public forest estate, what has become apparent through our work so far is that we must look at the future of all woods and forests, not just the one fifth managed by the Forestry Commission.
“Through the 42,000 responses to our call for views, the public expressed their passion for forests as a place of recreation, to connect with nature and as a vital source of resources. These responses, along with the many people we have met on our visits, have helped inform our report.”
The report notes that while looking over a landscape of different types and ages of trees in the Forest of Dean, the panel were told this was “a political landscape” shaped by the national politics at the time of planting. The panel has identified in their progress report that future forestry policy should reflect the economic and ecological timescales of woodlands.
The panel sees a continuing role for a national public forest estate in England. The panel sets out a broad vision of providing a wider range of benefits to more people, and will explore the role of not just the public forest estate but all woodlands, including those in other ownerships, in delivering more for society, the environment and the economy.
Bishop James said: “For now, all of our work, especially in relation to the woods and forests outside of the public forest estate, needs further development in the run up to making recommendations in our final report next year. But as ever, the panel are dedicated to further exploring these emerging themes.”
The panel’s progress report will be available to view in full at http://www.defra.gov.uk/forestrypanel/.
Ramblers’ protest walk
By Tom Potter East Anglian Daily Times ~ Monday, October 10, 2011
Local ramblers, horse riders and cyclists attending the Rallying for the Woods event in Rendlesham Forest on Sunday. The rally and four mile walk was to show support for access to our woodland and the extension of protected access rights for all users to the country's forests
Ramblers gathered in Rendlesham to make clear their views on the future of forestry and woodland management.
A four-mile walk left the Forestry Commission’s Tangham Outstation yesterday following an address by guest speakers on the subject of access to woodland.
A report next month is due to reveal the interim findings of an independent panel set up in March to advise the Government on the direction of policy in England, and rallies were held nationally to highlight a campaign to save woodland walks, and lobby for access.
Ramblers invited families, walkers and horse riders to join the rally and also celebrate the culmination of A Walk in the Woods week, designed to encourage wider use of woodland walks.
Richard Tyson, access officer for the Suffolk area Ramblers, said: “We invited people to help us try to bring the leisure interest in Rendlesham Forest to the panel’s attention.
“There was a lot of fuss about access earlier in the year.
“People may think it has disappeared but the issue has not gone away.”
The Independent Panel on Forestry, chaired by the Bishop of Liverpool, will submit its full report in April 2012, a little over a year after Secretary of State Caroline Spelman shelved controversial proposals to sell off or transfer public woodland.
Campaigners from Save Sandlings Forests – which include Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich – submitted views in July during consultation on the management of the forest estate.
East Suffolk: Woodland campaigners hand in views to forestry panel
Craig Robinson East Anglian
Daily Times ~ Friday, July 29, 2011
Clive Coles, of Save Sandlings Forests Group, in Rendlesham Forest.
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect popular woodland have urged those influencing its future to maintain access and ensure they are properly funded.
An independent forestry panel was set up by the Government earlier this year after it dropped controversial proposals to sell off or transfer public woodland.
Campaigners from Save Sandlings Forests – which include Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich – have now submitted their views as part of the public consultation.
They believe the public forest estate should continue to be owned and managed as a national asset by a properly resourced Forestry Commission.
Clive Coles, of Save Sandlings Forests, who is also a member of Suffolk Orienteering Club and a health walk leader, said: “Continuing unimpeded access is of prime concern for both these activities. We like to get off the beaten track where we can orienteer or walk well away from other forest users.”
The independent panel is looking at all aspects of forestry including the ownership and management of the Forestry Commission, which is still facing a 25% reduction in its £50million budget over the next four years.
Mr Coles said they were concerned the cuts were happening before the panel published its report. “We hope nothing will be done that cannot be unravelled should the panel recommend the role of the Forestry Commission be enhanced and expanded,” he added.
Fellow campaigner Imogen Radford, urged others to write to the panel.
“The forestry panel has called for everyone to give their views about forests by the end of July,” she said.
“There are still a few more days for everyone to tell the panel why we value our forests.”
A spokesman for the independent forestry panels was unavailable for comment last night.
Woodland campaigners are urging bosses to visit forests in Suffolk - including Rendlesham
East Suffolk: Campaigners urge forestry panel to visit Sandlings woodland
By Craig Robinson East Anglian Daily Times ~ Tuesday, June 7th, 2011
CAMPAIGNERS fighting to protect popular woodland have urged those influencing its fate to visit Suffolk.
An independent forestry panel was set up by the Government earlier this year after it dropped controversial proposals to sell off or transfer public woodland.
The group has already decided to visit three areas of the country as it continues to gather evidence ahead of reporting back in August.
But it is still to decide on what other sites to visit and campaigners from Save Sandlings Forests – which include Rendlesham, Tunstall and Dunwich – have now called on the panel to come to Suffolk.
Members are keen to show just how well the woodland is used and why it is so important to the local area.
The forests lie within an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are vital for tourism, as well as being well used by walkers, cyclists, horse riders, bird watchers, campers and schools for educational activities.
The Forestry Commission, which manages the Sandlings Forests, is still facing a 25% cut in its £50million budget over the next four years and is working up plans to streamline its operations.
Imogen Radford, a member of Save Sandlings Forests, said they wanted to ensure the panel were left in no doubt.
“Local people have made it clear that we don’t want the forests sold off, we don’t want a change of management, and we are very worried about whether the Forestry Commission can continue to do all its good work in the light of the 25% cuts announced recently,” she said.
“We don’t understand why the Government is forcing the Forestry Commission to make these drastic cuts while we’re waiting for the forestry panel to come out with its recommendations on the future of forests including public forests.
“We urge everyone to respond to the forestry panel ‘call for views’. Tell them why you value your local forests and you want them owned and managed by a properly-resourced Forestry Commission so that you can continue to enjoy them. Tell them if they want to really understand why our forests are important they should come and visit and listen to the views of local people.”
A spokeswoman for the forestry panel said they were grateful for the many invitations received from communities and other groups and that they recognised each forest or wood is special to those who use it.
“Our visits will aim to capture that rounded and complex view of forests,” she said. “The panel has therefore chosen the first set of visits to engage us in as many of the different issues and interactions as we can.
“Other woods and forests across England are very much in our minds and at this stage the panel has not taken any firm decisions about whether to undertake further visits.”
She said that anyone who wanted to have their say could visit http://www.defra.gov.uk/rural/forestry/panel.
Job Cuts ? Rendlesham Forest
Jobs under threat in forestry restructure
Suffolk: Organisation faces budget cuts
By Jonathan Barnes East Anglian Daily Times ~ Tuesday, May 24th, 2011
The number of woodland officers on public owned sites in the region will remain "broadly the same" despite a major restructuring in the Forestry Commission, it has emerged.
The commission is facing a 25% cut in its £50million budget over the next four years and is working up plans to streamline its operations.
That will mean job losses across its sites, including at Tangham which overseas work at the Sandlings Forests in east Suffolk, and its Santon Downham HQ which covers Thetford forest.
Campaigners criticised the plans - which they said could mean the commission losing one in four jobs nationally - particularly as an independent panel is currently gathering evidence about the future of the public forests and is not due to report back until August. They said activities such as learning services, wildlife and heritage management, and facilities such as visitors centres could be under threat, whilst free services could now have charges.
Staff were given a presentation on Monday outlining the commission's future plans, looking both at the grants and regulation department, which deals with private woodlands, and its public forest operations.
Commission spokesman Roger Woods, said the restructuring would be "gradual" leading up until 2014-15 and the number of woodland officers covering forests such as Rendlesham, Dunwich and Tunstall would remain "broadly the same" as current levels.
Currently there are about 100 people working for the Forestry Commission in East Anglia. It is unclear what these numbers will be after consultation.
But the Public and Commercial Services Union said cutbacks were "draconian". Imogen Radford, of the Save Sandlings Forest campaign group said "I'm very concerned that these cuts will mean the Forestry Commission will not be able to give as good a service as it does now, and that could mean it more likely the panel would come up with new plans to privatise our forests"
Suffolk: Fresh fears over county’s forests
By Chris Harris East Anglian Daily Times ~ Tuesday, April 12, 2011
FRESH fears are being voiced over the future of Suffolk’s woodlands after doubts emerged about a Government U-turn on cuts to the Forestry Commission.
Campaigners battling to save Rendlesham, Dunwich, Tunstall and Thetford forests have had their concerns re-ignited by a statement in Parliament.
James Paice, minister of state for the Department for Enivronment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), told the Commons that proposals to sell-off 15% of forests had been “suspended not cancelled.”
Woodland supporters had welcomed a perceived Government U-turn over the plans in February when ministers admitted they had “got this one wrong.”
Environment secretary Caroline Spelman halted a consultation about selling off 15% of forests and instead set up a panel of experts to advise ministers on the future direction of forestry policy.
But Mr Paice said the Government’s financial position was such that a decision on the Forestry Commission’s future would have to be made before the panel reported its findings.
Clive Coles, one of the founders of Save Sandlings Forests, said: “As far as I can see they are using the panel as a very clever cover for getting on behind the scenes with what they wanted to do anyway. I think it is still likely that they are going to try to sell the forests to private commercial undertakings or one of the national charitable trusts.”
Mr Paice revealed the Government wants to slash the Forestry Commission’s annual budget by 25%, which Mr Coles fears will hit the organisation’s workforce. A consultation on restructuring has just closed and the extent of any job losses are expected to be announced at the end of May.
Mr Coles added: “If you’re going to slim down the budget by 25 per cent you can only really do that by slimming down staff. But they need to sell-off the 15% of the country’s forests so that they can manage with a reduced staff.
“The fear is we will lose the on-site presence of the Forestry Commission staff, we will lose parts of our forests to the private sector and parts will be enclosed and we will not have the 24/7 access like we currently have.”
Mr Paice, addressing the Commons, said: “There is the separate issue of the planned disposal of 15% of the public forest estate, which we had planned to do during the spending period from this financial year to 2014-15. I stress that that has been suspended, not cancelled.
“The Forestry Commission in England will need to undertake significant restructuring and the downsizing of its programmes, at the same time as taking on a number of new challenges.”
“Unfortunately, as we all know, the financial position in which we find ourselves means that Forestry Commissioners cannot delay starting the changes until after the panel advising on the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England has reported.”
Elizabeth Barrett, of Camino Riders horse riding group, said she feared downsizing could mean losing Sandlings Forest on the Suffolk Coast, but she felt if any forest would be kept Thetford may be the one as it was the largest lowland pine forest in the country.
Suffolk: Threat to forests ‘is not over’
By Jonathan Barnes East Anglian Daily Times ~ Thursday, March 17, 2011
A CAMPAIGN group is warning that forest users must remain vigilant in protecting Suffolk’s woodlands – despite the Government’s U-turn on sell-off plans.
Save Sandlings Forests said there remained a threat to Forestry Commission-owned land as the Government looks make millions of pounds worth of savings.
There was a huge public outcry when ministers announced plans to invite commercial operators and community groups to take over the running of forests earlier this year.
Consultation on the plans was pulled last month and the Government said an independent panel of experts would instead be asked to look at the future of forests.
But Clive Coles, one of the founders of Save Sandlings Forests, which is concerned with the woodlands at Rendlesham, Dunwich and Tunstall, said the future of public forests was still unclear.
Plans to sell 15% of the public estate are still being worked up by the Government while there are proposals to cut the Forestry Commission workforce.
“The big thing is the staff issue at the Forestry Commission,” said Mr Coles.
“If the Government gets rid of the staff who look after the estate, it will increase the pressure to get rid of the estate. It will be a domino effect.
“There is now going to be a ‘secret’ consultation taking place and the fear is that an ongoing programmme of privatisation will go ahead unchallenged.”
Mr Coles, an orienteering enthusiast from Bredfield, near Woodbridge, said the group was encouraging people to write to their MPs to ensure rights of forest users were protected.
He added there was concern that the independent panel would involve “experts with an agenda” and would exclude the many user groups who enjoy the forests.
Therese Coffey, Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal, said the Forestry Commission’s budget had to be reduced to deal with the major deficit left behind by the previous Government.
She added she was “confident” the forestry panel would be wide-ranging in its views and representation.
Mr Coles said the campaign’ group was hoping to build up support for the forests.
For more information go to www.savesandlingsforest.co.uk .