Fears for future of precious wood

Government plans to sell off publicly owned forests could see private developers allowed to clear ancient trees at Matlock Moors.

The plan, to raise funds to help to pay off the budget deficit, has been met by opposition from nature lovers.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs plans to dispose of about half the land looked after by the Forestry Commission, raising fears that trees will disappear to be replaced by amusement parks and other ventures.

The Forestry Commission holds about 1.85 million acres of woodland, about a third of which may be sold off, in one the biggest land sales in British history.

Under the plans woodland areas, on the moorland plateau above Matlock, owned by the Forestry Commission which also owns woodland at Black Rocks in Cromford, could be sold to private developers.

Resident Isabella Stone, who is a member of Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Campaign to Protect Rural England, has signed a Save England’s Ancient Forests petition launched by the Woodland Trust.

She said: “There is a big campaign against this. The Forestry Commission has a good track record in providing public access and although walkers rights should be retained that does not include horse riders or cyclists.”

She added: “The government seem to be trying to make reassuring noises that they will be sold off with strict conditions but some people seem to think there will be a danger it could be developed.

“Matlock Moors is important because a lot of people use it for walking and horse riding.”

The Woodland Trust also has precious Planted Ancient Woodland Sites which includes Shining Cliff Woods on the bank of the River Derwent, near to Ambergate, which the trust is campaigning to increase protection for.

A spokesman for the trust said: “Ownership is not the fundamental issue at stake for the Woodland Trust.

“It is the future of the forests themselves, especially the ancient woods, and how to protect their value for wildlife and for people which is the critical issue for us.

“Some ancient woods may slip through the net of protection, while many others may go unrestored.

“Government says they will be protected – we have grave doubts about this in practice. “

To find out more or to sign the petition go to www.woodlandtrust.org.uk