Government urged to grant heritage status to Thetford Forest

The government was today urged to protect Thetford Forest from any potential sell-off of Forestry Commission land by designating it as a Heritage Forest.

Parliamentarians and council leaders from both Norfolk and Suffolk joined forces with South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss and West Suffolk's Matthew Hancock to urge Defra secretary Caroline Spelman to award the Heritage Forest status to Thetford Forest.

The move comes amid growing concern at the coalition's plans for a to dispose of England's public forest estate to private companies, community groups and charities, with prime minister David Cameron also pledging to 'listen to all the arguments'.

The letter, which was sent following a meeting between Miss Truss and Mrs Spelman on Tuesday night, stressed the unique bio-diversity of the forest and substantial community use as well as the concerns of constituents about coalition government's proposals.

Also signing it were all Norfolk MPs, with the exception of Henry Bellingham, as well as Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, Baroness Shephard of Northwold, Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy, and the mayors of both Thetford and Swaffham,

Miss Truss said: 'I highlighted to the secretary of state that I had received a considerable amount of correspondence from constituents who are extremely concerned that the status of the forest will change. I pressed upon the Secretary of State that Thetford Forest deserves Heritage status to preserve the biodiversity and community access. The Secretary of State did say said that this is a public consultation and that the public's views will be taken into account. I would therefore urge those who are concerned about Thetford Forest to write to DEFRA whilst this consultation is ongoing. I will continue to keep pressing the case to ensure the Secretary of State understands the views of my constituents to safeguard Thetford Forest as a Heritage Forest.'

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