Hundreds of forest acres up for sale

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AROUND 650 acres of woodland is up for sale in Northamptonshire as part of a massive sell-off of the country’s forests.

The six forests previously managed by the Forestry Commission have been added to the 2010/2011 sales list following Government moves to dispose of land in a bid to cut costs.

Two of the forests on the list –Priesthay Wood (16.0 acres), near Towcester, and Whitfield Wood (93.2 acres), near Brackley – are owned by the Forestry Commission.

Four others – Wicken Wood (195.21 acres), Coldoak Copse near (103.78 acres), Horn Wood, near(59.3 acres) and Long Furlong near (180.3 acres) – were all leased to the commission from private owners but are now also on the sales list.

Other Northamptonshire forests, such as Salcey Forest, remain under the ownership of the Forestry Commission for now.

Priesthay Wood, which went on the market for £45,000 is already under offer, as is Whitfield Wood, which went on the market for £250,000.

John Clegg, from John Clegg & Co Chartered Surveyors, which has been handling the sales, stressed sales will not necessarily mean the end of public access. He said: “Often the land is subject to a right of way act, so if the land is sold it is still subject to an act, as, say, Priesthay is to the Crow Act 2000. It will still be accessible for quiet enjoyment to walk around that wood.

“Forest sales are a very active market at the current time, with prices differing greatly. There will be virtually no people buying the land to develop it, as they have a practically nil chance of getting permission. Mostly we are looking at people who like the idea of owning woodland, because they are interested in butterflies or flora and fauna.”

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said: “We have bought and sold land for many years to improve the public benefit from woodlands we manage. The Public Bodies Bill was published on October 29 and paves the way for change to enable Ministers to achieve their new agenda for forestry in England.

“Government has reiterated its firm commitment to biodiversity and other public benefits which forests and woodland provide, and will consult on proposals to reform management of the Public Forest Estate in England later this year.

“Any future sales programmes will be publicly available.”