A RALLY is taking place at Friston Forest this weekend by a group of campaigners who want to ensure the beauty spot is not sold off. Controversial government plans which could have seen the woodland near Seaford taken over by private companies, charities or community groups were abandoned but Dave Bangs from ‘Keep Our Forests Public’ believes such areas are still under threat.
On Sunday March 20 he will be one of several people giving a talk at the rally which aims to celebrate the latest news but keep campaigning so that forests across the region do not get sold off.
Under the proposals areas run by the Forestry Commission could have changed hands but earlier this month plans to sell off 258,000 hectares of state-owned woodland in England were abandoned after Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman told MPs the government had ‘got this one wrong’ and announced the current consultation had been halted.
Friston Forest is popular with walkers, cyclists and tourists.
He said, “I don’t think there is any individual forest in East Sussex, West Sussex or in the whole of the south east region of the Forestry Commission which is not at risk.
“Friston Forest is a very large forest and is very deeply loved by people in the coastal towns.”
It is understood a new panel of experts will now look at public access and biodiversity within the country’s publicly owned woodland.
Mr Bangs, who said the Forestry Commission may have to sell 15 per cent of its estate if the Government demands it after autumn, warned, “People think we have won but it’s not over.”
He is keen that representation should be made from trade unions and grass roots forest defence organisation on any government advisory panel which discusses any potential changes to the Forestry Commission’s ownership of any woodland and that its meetings should be public.
Anyone who wishes to join the event on Sunday should meet at 12 noon at Exceat car park off Litlington Road.
The rally will be followed by a picnic and a guided forest walk. The maximum walking distance is six miles but there is two stop and return points for those who do not want to make the whole ramble.
Anyone joining the group should wear strong shoes and bring lunch and refreshments.
People are welcome to bring banners and placards.
For more information call Dave on 01273 620815.