Sales of 15% of England's publicly owned forests are to be put on hold while the criteria for selling them are re-examined, the government said today.
The move follows widespread criticism of proposals by ministers to offload the remaining 85% of England's public forest estate to timber companies, charities and local communities.
The proposed sales of 15% of the forests announced in last year's spending review will not go ahead until a review aimed at "significantly" strengthening the protections given to the woodlands is completed, the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, said.
Reacting to the government's announcement, David Babbs, executive director of campaign group 38 Degrees said:"It's welcome news that our people-powered campaign has pushed the government to postpone the start of the sell-off for at least a few months. But if David Cameron hopes the fuss will now die down, he's going to be disappointed.
"We will keep up the pressure as long as the government is still pushing through a law that allows them to sell-off up to 100% of our forests. If Cameron really wants to show that he is listening, he will now stop pushing through the legal changes that pave the way for privatisation. As long as those laws are being pushed through, our forests are still in danger."
Some 493,680 people have now signed the petition against the sell-off. Campaigners hope to hit half a million signatories in the coming days.
A small victory for the people of this country but really not good enough 15% of ALL the land the DemCon government are selling to be put on hold!, There will still be more loop-holes the government will hope to negotiate in order to dispose of its assets. Hopefully next weeks Doncaster Libraries proposals will meet the same fate