When I was first told about the plan a few weeks ago, I was informed that the Woodland Trust was typical of the charity which would be keen to take on the “heritage woodland” which would be spun off into the Big Society/voluntary sector – while the privatisation of the “commercial” pine forest went ahead.
Except that the Woodland Trust had no enthusiasm to take on a tract of land vastly bigger than the relatively small estate it currently manages. Even the promise of future subsidies has not reassured the charity.
So then I was told that even without the WT, there would still be other charities coming forward to run the Forest of Dean, New Forest, et cetera; the two names cited were the National Trust and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
It’s worth reading this weekend blog by Mark Avery, head of policy at the RSPB:
If the RSPB thought that we could step in and make the New Forest a better place for wildlife and people then we’d say so – but we don’t, and have no intention of pushing ourselves forward in that way. We work in the New Forest now, in partnership with others, as we do in the Forest of Dean too, and we’d like to carry on working there with local people. We might do more in future – but we aren’t daft – we know when something is too big to swallow.
Meanwhile Fiona Reynolds, director-general of the National Trust, has described the sell-off policy as “full of holes”, according to today’s Sunday Telegraph.