Have your say on East Anglian woodlands, plea

People are being urged to make their views known in a final attempt to secure the region's public forest estate.

Currently a review panel is looking into the future of woodland across the country and will report back to the government later this year.

Chairman of the Friends of Thetford Forest, Anne Mason, is now urging people to put their views forward before the panel makes its final recommendations.

Mrs Mason, who spoke to the panel members when they visited forests around Thetford and Bury St Edmunds last week, said there was still time to influence the future of the region's woodland.

'We think there would be great value in individual members of the public writing to panel members and MPs and making sure they are aware of the need to have a public forest estate,' she said. 'It's never to late to do that. We've got to re-inforce the message we've been trying to get across.'

The Independent Panel on Forestry is due to submit its final report in June after it was tasked with looking at the issue following public outcry about government plans - swiftly shelved - to privatise Forestry Commission-owned land.

The panel produced a progress report in December, in which it confirmed a continuing role for the national public forest estate, arguing it delivers many benefits for people, nature and the economy.

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For its final report, the panel is discussing how these benefits can be secured for future generations and how more woodlands can be created and brought into management across England.

Friends of Thetford Forest has long argued the best way to do this would be to keep the Forestry Commission in its current role.

'We would like the forest to be fully-recoursed in perpetuity to deliver for future generations,' Mrs Mason added. 'Thetford Forest is a multi-purpose forest, it's a working forest which contributes to the economy, and I think the panel understood community groups could work with the Forestry Commission and support them but that volunteer groups do not have the skills and expertise to take on forests.

'I'm convinced they did listen to us, though the slightly worrying thing is when they make their report, it's recommendations only and then it's up to the government to take the final decision.'

Currently the Forestry Commission oversees 18,106 (44,740 acres) hectares of freehold land and 6,120 (15,122 acres) of leasehold land in Norfolk and Suffolk.

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