By Patrick Ward
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Government plans to sell Britain's forests have run up against massive opposition from the public.
Issue 355

According to an online YouGov poll, 84 percent of people believe that woods and forests should be kept in public hands, with only 2 percent wanting their sell-off.

Coalition minister for environment, food and rural affairs Jim Paice told a select committee last November, “We wish to proceed with very substantial disposal of public forest estate, which could go to the extent of all of it.”

A petition against the sell-offs has gained 185,000 signatures at time of press, and thousands demonstrated in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire, last month. Campaigners are angry that the Con-Dem plans fail to ensure adequate protection of wildlife, and there are fears that access to woodland by bikes, wheelchairs, cars and horses may now be denied. In areas where woodland has already been sold off, such as Pennygrove Wood in Sussex, “Private Property” signs have been put up. The threat to woodland from loggers and developers will also increase substantially.

As a sweetener, private owners of woodland are exempt from paying capital gains tax, income tax and inheritance tax.

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