Finally received a reply from Jeremy Wright MP. The reply was surprising in some respects, less so in others. I guess I’d already resigned myself to it being a fairly cut and paste job – there were a few insults thrown at the Labour party (they did it first, but worse!), and general reassurance that selling off the forests was the correct thing to do because they’d be better managed and it’d reduce the conflict in interest in having the FC regulating the timber trade whilst also being a producer. I really don’t know if that’s his genuine opinion, or if he just puts the party line ahead of constituents’ concerns.
Surprising was his guarantee that all access rights were going to be preserved, so that people could continue to walk, cycle and ride their horses in their forests exactly as they had before. He claimed this was in the consultation, and I should fill it in. Which is funny, because I’d already filled it in, and it hadn’t really made me think they’d given much thought to permissive rights of way. He didn’t respond to my questions about what would happen to businesses currently located on Forestry land (bike shops/hire, cafes, riding schools, skills tutors, etc), although maybe it’s because it’s a moot point if all access rights were to be guaranteed. I did kind of get the impression that he didn’t actually know the difference between permissive and CRoW routes though…
The other surprising thing was he replied by mail. As in, ‘letter on paper through the letterbox’ mail. Blimey. I would have preferred an email – it’s how I contacted him, and I was always told that responding in the same format as one had been contacted in was preferable etiquette. Not to mention that emails save paper and ink, so is better for the environment, and also saves money on customised stationary. MP stationary is HEAVY. The paper quality is Proper Posh (TM) – weighty, nice finish… you could paper a room with it! And maybe an email would take slightly less than two weeks to arrive.
But all that is fairly moot, as two days later the government did a much-welcomed U-turn. I guess having the majority of voters (regardless of political persuasion) hating you is probably a bad thing. In a way I hope it might turn out to be a good thing – the government have seen how far and wide opposition to the plans are, they’re now going to have to ensure access rights to the smaller amount land they do sell off or lose face… and most importantly, people are now more likely to be aware of any future sales, and know that people power and community concerns can work for change.