It was with some relief on twitter that I noted that the sale of Britain’s forests had been cancelled. This was one of the more ludicrous asset-stripping plans by the government to sell off 258,000 hectares and raise £250 million. As has been previously noted the Conservatives have form in this area, they tried to do the same the last time they were in power under John Major.
The idea of private companies owning and being responsible for huge stretches of English countryside has never been a part of libertarianist philosophy that I’ve ever been able to buy into. It seems to me that companies have as much difficult as governments in focusing on long term outcomes and too often company strategy reduces to quick fixes. For instance, the current supermarket practice of squeezing milk suppliers can’t possibly be sustained. The recent DEFRA report makes that clear showing a decrease year on year of 28% in real terms. Not only will companies be unable to look to the long term future but many of the sale plans would be on the basis of removing the forests: golf courses and centre parc applications for instance. Whilst the National Trust might have been able to obtain some it is certainly utterly beyond them to purchase the amount of land that was being proposed for sale.
fire forest sale was almost certainly going to result in less forests across the country but some money for the government whilst it’s needed, right? Well, maybe not. As Private Eye reported last month in issue 1280 it probably wouldn’t have even achieved that. Selling forests to private companies lets them have their cake and eat it. Not only would they get their land but after stripping it of timber they’d get their money back! The English Woodland Grant Scheme allows companies to apply for funds to grow timber. The law of unintended consequences strikes again, a scheme designed to encourage woodland growth actually results in an increased pressure to cut forests down.
Still, just before parliamentary recess David Cameron appears to have made an executive U-turn on the matter. It’s a little disheartening feeling like I have to praise an individual for not destroying beautiful forests in the UN “international year of forests” (This is how little difference these days/years make..) but hurrah!