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Environment Environment

Keep public forests and woodland in trust

Last updated: 01:45pm 15 January 2019

We will continue to ensure that public forests and woodland are kept in trust for the nation…

Conservative Party Manifesto 2017, p.26

Our verdict

Keeping something “in trust for the nation” is another way of saying “in public ownership”. So, this policy pledge is about keeping public forests and woodlands in public ownership.

In January 2018, the government announced its 25 Year Environment Plan, which “sets out government action to help the natural world regain and retain good health”. Part of this plan explicitly refers to this policy, noting that “we will maintain our Public Forest Estate, keeping it in trust for the nation, reflecting the value of the social and environmental benefits it provides so that future generations continue to enjoy them”.

There was, however, debate around plans to turn a publicly owned area of Mortimer Forest into a major holiday park development. The Forestry Commission insisted the land was still publicly owned, but campaign groups and other observers made the argument that the plan represented privatisation of forest land “by the back door”. The company involved decided not to proceed with the development in the end.

Public forests and woodlands are officially still in public ownership and the government has committed to keeping things as they are through their 25 Year Plan.  There has been some controversy, but for now we’re marking this policy as ‘done’.  We’ll keep an eye out for any further proposals which might represent a breach of the government’s pledge to keep forests in trust for the nation. Follow this policy to stay on top of developments.

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