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The Sunday Telegraph, Rachel Johnson and Archbishop of Canterbury join forces to oppose privatisation of Britain's England's forests

Tim Montgomerie

Screen shot 2011-01-23 at 08.54.07

"There are some things that are too precious to be thrown on the mercy of the open market. It has already been agreed that 15 per cent of our publicly owned forests will be sold; if the Coalition succeeds in selling the remaining 85 per cent, it will be the biggest change in land ownership since the Second World War. Every year, 40 million people visit publicly accessible Forestry Commission land. A sell-off might jeopardise that access, or lead to the development and destruction of those forests."

Screen shot 2011-01-23 at 09.07.51 That leader warning of the dangers of open markets doesn't come from a left-wing newspaper but from The Sunday Telegraph. The newspaper today launches a campaign against Coalition plans to sell off Forest Commission assets. 15% of the Commission's woodland will be sold off before 2015, raising £100m. A consultation paper has been launched, setting out thoughts on selling the remainder.

Boris Johnson's sister, Rachel Johnson, is behind Save England’s Forests - a pressure group that opposes the privatisation.

In a letter to today's Sunday Telegraph a huge variety of the great and good sign up to Save England Forest's concerns. The signatories include Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Others include:

  • Dame Judi Dench
  • Anthony Gormley
  • Tracey Emin
  • Caroline Lucas MP
  • Ken Livingstone
  • Rosie Boycott
  • Ben Fogle
  • Dylan Jones
  • Jonathan Porritt
  • Ranulph Fiennes

For a full list go here.

This tactic of celebrity protesting is the new thing. 'Celebtivism' also helped deliver u-turns from the government on funding for sport and free books for children.

I'd like to study the detail of what the government proposes before taking a position. I don't like The Sunday Telegraph's suggestion that an open market is a more dangerous thing, however, than state ownership. Public ownership can be very bad for assets. Our forests might be better off in the hands of free market owners who have a long term interest in the health of woodland and are subject to regulations that govern public access, for example. Our woodlands may be more likely to suffer if they are part of a state which doesn't have the money or incentives to properly maintain them.

10.45am: Defence of policy on DEFRA website


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