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Ramblers in new appeal as forest panel report nears

Posted 26 June 2012
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Ramblers in new appeal as forest panel report nears
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For those who like to go walking in the woods, a red letter day is approaching. The panel established by environment secretary Caroline Spelman to recommend how the future management of England's forests should look is set to report next week (July 4th).

At the heart of their remit is the issue of access for walkers, horse riders and cyclists - a consideration not just for the 18 per cent of forest owned by the Forestry Commission at the heart of the controversy that prompted the establishment of the panel, but also the 82 per cent that is privately owned.

For while Ms Spelman's original plans could have raised question marks over access to sold-off forests, the issue of access is one that many can relate to where their local woodland or forest lacks public access.

The Ramblers was among those campaigning against the sell-off of the forests and its then chief executive Tom Franklin was appointed to the panel last year. Despite this, the walkers' organisation has made one last appeal to the body to uphold and enhance access rights.

Ramblers director of policy and campaigns Nick Philpott said: "The panel has a once in a generation opportunity to be bold and imaginative and look at how we can extend the benefits of woodland to even more people across England."

He added: "We want the panel to maintain its commitment to public forests but also hope it goes further and looks at ways to increase public access to woodland outside the public forest estate."

Should this wish be fulfilled, it could mark a major new step forward for access, the best news for walkers since the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 was passed and, some might argue, an appropriate step coming in the 80th anniversary year of the Kinder mass trespass.

Another issue in Ms Spelman's inbox is the proposed expansion of the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales national parks.

Natural England's consultation ended in March and once the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has finished examining the responses, Ms Spelman will make a statement on what will happen next.ADNFCR-2803-ID-801393139-ADNFCR