Quantock Hills land sold to Forestry Commission
|Published: 7th April 2012 09:00|
News was welcomed on Thursday that Great Wood, 1,550 acres of Quantock Hills' land owned by Somerset County Council, has been sold to the Forestry Commission who have leased and managed it since 1927.
The move ends weeks of speculation about the future of the land which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and has seen various petitions calling for it to be retained in public hands.
"Due to the complex nature of our discussions, I was not able to rebut some of the more fanciful claims in the media but now we have a deal that safeguards this area and protects public access," said Cabinet Member David Huxtable. "It also shows some of the scare-mongering that has taken place was total nonsense."
Cllr Huxtable said he was particularly pleased that the land will remain in public ownership. "We said at the outset we would protect public access and we have written that into the sale contract," he said.
"The Forestry Commission has a long tradition of running and maintaining this type of land, I'm sure it is far better placed to continue that than Somerset County Council which faces immense budget pressures which look like getting more challenging with time."
Council Leader Ken Maddock said the deal was the best for Somerset residents. "I met with protesters and assured them that public access rights would be protected and the long term future of this beautiful countryside would be safeguarded. We have achieved this and I'm grateful to the Forestry Commission."
Simon Hodgson, Forestry Commission England Chief Executive said: "I am delighted that we have been able to complete the deal after months of serious negotiation. With limited resources, we have to consider very carefully how we invest in the Public Forest Estate. We hope owning Great Wood outright rather than managing it under a lease reassures visitors and local people of our commitment to stewardship of the woodland and safeguarding public access."