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A Strange Turn

by on February 22, 2011

The Extended Society explains why the government’s repealed forest scheme is less commercial and more community focused. First Published on The Graduate Times.

The recent decision not to sell off forests baffles the Extended Society somewhat. People appeared to be worried that forests would become commercial entities. Yet the Forestry Commission, the current regulator, is also the seller of 70% of the timber entering the British market.

To state that the current regulator is not a commercial entity is naive. As Miss Spelman told the Economist: “The Forestry Commission is selling Christmas trees, for goodness sake. What is the state doing selling Christmas trees?”

It is true that the portfolio of the forestry commission includes heritage forests. As a regulator, however, the Forestry Commission could do its true job and regulate these forests appropriately, insuring they go to appropriate owners. Forest areas that have already been used for commercial purposes by the Forestry Commission could be sold to commercial owners; others would need to be sold to charities. Both would still need to be regulated.

The whole purpose of the scheme was to give heritage forests and woodland back to the community. This would mean that the community would be able to decide how their forests would be run. They could, if they wished, charge anybody an entrance fee from anyone who does not have a pass, and issue a free pass to neighbouring residents. This way Sutton Park could be free for Sutton Coldfield residents.

The error of the government is that they wrongly presented it as a cost-cutting scheme, which it is not. It is a Big Society scheme. They should have communicated it as a policy that would take away duties from the government and give power to the people.

If presented in this way any amendment to the scheme would be taking power away from the people, and who would want that…?

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