Protest over Grizedale Forest sell-off plan

Protesters at Grizedale Forest
Image caption Campaigners fear private owners could reduce access to Grizedale Forest

More than 1,000 people have attended a rally in Cumbria in protest against Government plans to sell off woodland.

Ministers want to transfer power from the Forestry Commission, which owns 18% of woodlands, to the private sector which they say will aid public control.

But campaigners fear private owners could ban horses, cycles, or even dogs.

Speakers at the event, near the Grizedale Visitor Centre, included Lord Clark of Windermere, a former Forestry Commission chairman.

Lord Clark said: "If this sell-off goes ahead, whether it is leasehold or freehold, it will actually cost us more money.

"The government is proposing some of our forests to be given away to charities and then provide them with an annual subsidy to run the forests.

"We give £26 million a year to private forestry. That will probably double if we have to subsidise the charities."

Also addressing the crowd was Cumbria Tourism and Wainwright Society chairman, Eric Robson, who described the Grizedale forest estate as absolutely crucial to tourism in the county.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has said it envisaged "a managed programme of reform to further develop a competitive, thriving and resilient forestry sector that includes many sustainably-managed woods", and was committed to biodiversity and other public benefits.

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