Forest of Dean rally over sell-off fears
Hundreds of people have gathered in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire to protest about the possible sale of parts of the public woodland.
The campaign group Hands Off Our Forest held the rally due to fears the government could sell large swathes to private investors.
A White Paper on forestry is expected to be published later this month.
Forest of Dean MP Mark Harper said: "I'm confident that plans in the White Paper will protect the Forest of Dean."
Speaking before the rally, the Conservative MP added: "I have discussed this issue with the forestry minister and he is very clear about the importance of protecting the Forest of Dean.
"Neither I, nor the government, have any intention of doing anything that would damage our forest.
"There are not and never have been any plans to sell off the Forest of Dean to developers who would cut down the forest to replace it with recreation parks.
"All that has ever been proposed is whether a local not-for-profit organisation, a charitable trust say, might be able to involve local people more closely in the ownership or management of the Forest of Dean."
Richard Daniels, from Hands Off Our Forest, said: "Ideally, we would have waited until warmer weather arrived, but this is an urgent matter.
"The clauses in the Public Bodies Bill, which will enable the Forest of Dean and other forests in England to be sold, might be debated in the House of Lords as early as January 11.
"We want to send a message to the government, and that includes our MP Mark Harper, that there is no way we are going to let our Forest be sold."