Save the forest but widen the streets
Here are my two pence. I love England’s old forests and fields and countryside. Hang onto it as that is a prized asset. The trouble in Great Britain is that it is so hard to get to the forest or to get anywhere for that matter. Trips that should take minutes consume hours because the roads are poorly designed.
I theorize that when British engineers laid out the roads, they said, “people only use them half of the time. They don’t use them at night. People don’t use sidewalks at night either. So, let’s cut the lanes down and give them half a street.” When two cars or two people confront one another, extraordinary politeness kicks in and one moves aside into the brush or onto the sidewalk. People drive in a squeeze.
Hey, think about making streets alternating as one-way streets. That way, there will be plenty of room for people to drive and parking can be restricted to one side of the street. That should get traffic moving a little faster. By the way, you folks are driving on the wrong side of the street. Let’s be democratic and take a vote. The EU votes and England you are driving the wrong way. Let’s fix that later.
“Forest sales put on hold
Friday, 11 February 2011
Sales of 15% of England's publicly-owned forests are to be put on hold while the criteria for selling them off are re-examined, the Government said today.
The move follows widespread criticism of proposals by ministers to offload the remaining 85% of England's public forest estate to timber companies, charities and local communities.
The proposed sales of 15% of the forests announced in last year's spending review will not go ahead until a review aimed at "significantly" strengthening the protections given to the woodlands is completed, Environment Secretary Caroline Spleman said.
The sale of 15% of the forest estate - the maximum the Government can sell under current legislation - aimed to raise £100 million towards the Environment Department's budget.
But Ms Spelman said the Government was committed to increasing protection for access and public benefit in public woodlands, and that the "inadequate measures" applied to sales under the previous administration would be reviewed.
She said the review would not affect the commitment to sell 15% of the forest estate over the next four years, and had no impact on the continuing consultation into the remaining 85% of the public forests.
The Government's consultation, which provoked a storm of protest when it was published last month, outlines plans to offload England's 258,000-hectare public forest estate, currently managed by the Forestry Commission, over the next 10 years.
The proposals include a £250 million sale of leaseholds for commercially valuable forests to timber companies, measures to allow communities, charities and even local authorities to buy or lease woods, and plans to transfer well-known "heritage" woods such as the New Forest into the hands of charities.
Today's statement relates only to the 15% of English publicly-owned woodlands already earmarked for sale.
Ms Spelman said: "In light of the Government commitment to increase protection for access and public benefit in our woodlands, the criteria for these sales will be reviewed so that protections are significantly strengthened following the inadequate measures that were applied to sales under the previous administration.
"Pending this review, no individual woodland site will be put on the market.
"The revision of the timetable for this sales programme will ensure that the necessary protection for all public benefits of the public forest estate are in place.
"This will not affect the commitment to sell 15% of the public forest estate over the next four years and has no impact on the ongoing consultation on the remaining 85% of the public forest estate."
Up to half the public estate is commercially-valuable forest, which - under the plans put out for consultation - would be sold on 150-year leaseholds rather than a freehold basis, allowing the Government to impose conditions on timber companies to protect public access and ensure environmental standards.
The previously-announced sales of 40,000 hectares of land, which the Government said will target woods that provide limited added benefits for people, did not have protections for public access or wildlife and the review aims to ensure those safeguards are in place.
The Prospect union, which represents Forestry Commission workers, gave a cautious welcome to the announcement that sales of forestry land would be put on hold pending the review, but warned that nothing short of a U-turn on disposing of England's forest would protect woodlands and the wider timber industry.
Prospect negotiator Malcolm Currie said: "We welcome the fact that the Government is thinking again, in the light of the near-universal chorus of opposition to the plans from all sectors of the community."
But Mr Currie warned that the Public Bodies Bill enabled the Government to amend the Forestry Commission's statutory and wider functions at will.
"While that is still on the cards, the dangers are still there, regardless of any review."
David Babbs, executive director of campaign group 38 Degrees, which is leading a "Save Our Forests" fight, said: "It's welcome news that our people-powered campaign has pushed the Government to postpone the start of the sell-off for at least a few months.
"But if David Cameron hopes the fuss will now die down, he's going to be disappointed.
"We will keep up the pressure as long as the Government is still pushing through a law that allows them to sell off up to 100% of our forests.
"If David Cameron really wants to show that he is listening, he will now stop pushing through the legal changes that pave the way for privatisation.
"As long as those laws are being pushed through, our forests are still in danger."
Almost half a million people have signed the Save Our Forests petition.
Mary Creagh, shadow environment secretary, labelled the move to put the planned forest sales on hold as "a panic measure by a Government which has been spooked by the huge public outcry".
She said: "This partial U-turn will not be enough to silence the protests
"This Government has not scrapped its plans to sell off the public woodlands.
"We urge people to send a very clear message to this Conservative-led Government by joining our This Land is Our Land campaign."
Brendan Barber, general secretary of union organisation the TUC, said: "This is not a U-turn but the start of a three-point turn.
"We look forward to hearing that the Forestry Commission job losses will now also be called off and that the whole forestry disposal debacle will be scrapped.
"This shows that people power can make a difference."”