Login Register

Fiery Forest meeting with MP Mark Harper over woodland sell-off plans

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: February 05, 2011

  • Rough ride: Mark Harper MP

Comments (0)

Hundreds of passionate Forest residents descended on Coleford last night to make their stance clear on the government's forestry proposals.

Although secretary of State Caroline Spelman said last week that England's heritage woodland, including the Forest of Dean, would not be sold-off, she left the door open for it to be taken over by a charitable trust.

Last night's meeting was the first chance residents have had to quiz MP Mark Harper about the controversial proposals, after he previously turned down invitations to attend a meeting in Cinderford and the HOOF (Hands Off Our Forest) rally at Speech House in January.

With more than 100 people crammed into the meeting room inside the town's Main Place building, there were more than 300 sign wielding campaigners stood outside the venue due to its maximised capacity.

Chants of 'Hands off our Forest' and 'Get Harper out' could be heard throughout the meeting, which ran from 7pm to 9pm.

A strong police presence kept proceedings in order throughout but tempers and emotions ran high in what was a fiery encounter between the public and the MP.

For more see Monday's TiG and The Citizen.

To read how HOOF (Hands Off Our Forest) reported the meeting click here.

Read more from Gloucester Citizen

Do you have something to say? Leave your comment here...

max 4000 characters
  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    Martin Arkway, Gloucester  |  February 15 2011, 9:05AM

    Whether the Forest in the hands of private ownership or a charitable trust it is still going to take staff to maintain and run it. Where is this money coming from? If it is in private ownership, can you see investors putting money in without getting some monetary benefit from the land? If they are restricted in what they can do with the land what is the use in having the land in the first place? Are we going to see people having to pay to roam ancient forests, when they never have had to before? Similarly, a charitable trust will require donations from the public or grants from the Government. The same restrictions would exist as if the land was in private ownership. The Forest is the heritage of the people of the Forest of Dean and neither option is a suitable answer. The Forestry Commission does a sterling job looking after the Forest of Dean and all other public forests in the UK. There is a popular adage, "if it's not broken, why mend it". I just wonder if this is just another pseudo-investment opportunity put forward by some commercial lobby group. For example, Company A buys the Forest from the Government and runs it for x years with annual grants from the Government to ensure use by the public. After x years Company A tells the Government that it can not continue to run the Forest on the same levels of grants, and that the Government must either increase the value of grants or relax the restictions on the use of the land allowing Company A to sell off the land for develpment. If the Government increases the values of the grants it will become an ever increasing burden on the tax-payer as Company A will ask for an increase in the grant value on an annual basis. If the Government relaxes restictions on the use of the land and allows its sell-off for development then the Forest will disappear at an alarming rate. If the Government caps the grants and enforces the restictions on Company A then A will simply let the Forest fall in disrepair, forcing the Government to buy it back at an inflated value. Does this sound familiar?

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    C Thomas, Pontypridd  |  February 08 2011, 11:54PM

    I am dumfounded at the lib/CON alliance, they seem to be selling off anything that's not tied down. They will be selling second hand cars next on ebay.

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    CT, Pontypridd, South Wales  |  February 08 2011, 11:52PM

    Luckily I live in Wales. I am dumbfounded that the lib/CON alliance are selling off anything that's not tied down. They will be selling second hand cars on ebay next.

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    ian, Newnham  |  February 07 2011, 1:02PM

    The idea that Harper is a good constituency MP is ludicrous. It is clear that his constituents are against any proposal to sell or dispose of the forest, yet he votes with the government. Look at his record. You can count on yor fingers the number of times he has stepped out of line with his own party and voted on principle. He is nothing but a career minded, self interested, tory lobby fodder.

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    TigerRice, Gloster  |  February 07 2011, 11:57AM

    I'm starting to wonder, quite seriously, if we would be better off applying to become part of Wales. We seem to be falling badly behind Wales and Scotland in terms of real social care and equality of opportunity. I really don't believe that anyone at Westminster gives a monkey's about what the average person has to say.

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    Quedgeley Guy, Quedgeley  |  February 07 2011, 10:09AM

    Don't be coy,Norman. You said: They are beng paid by the people they are supposed to represent,when will any of them do what the public wish them to do.A great deal of common land has been deregulated,sold and built upon already,I believe that they will go down the same path. China in a Nutshell!

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    norman miles, Zhuhai.China  |  February 06 2011, 11:45PM

    Where on earth are you coming from Quedgeley guy,or did you feel that you just had to blow your horn.What sort of a deadly impact do you think I would have on governmental decisions in China,whether I agree with their policies or not,and you just do not know what I agree or dissagree with.

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    Shire resident, The Hobbit Hole.  |  February 06 2011, 9:05PM

    I'm sure when the good electors of the Forest of Dean returned Mr. Harper or voted Libdem they were aware that he would be part of a Lib/Con alliance that would be proposing all these welcome changes. I can't understand why they are making such a fuss about all this now when it's way too late to undo the damage. As ye sow so shall ye reap!

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    Ken, S Glos  |  February 06 2011, 2:01PM

    I'm in no doubt the government will do a u turn on this and back down. The sooner they do it the better, so no more money is wasted on a pointless consultation.

  • Profile image for This is Gloucestershire
    Quedgeley Guy, Quedgeley  |  February 06 2011, 12:33PM

    Norman, You sound like the Pot calling the Kettle Black. http://www.albionmonitor.com/0606a/copyright/3gorgesdamcost.html