CONGRATULATIONS to those who won, and commiserations to those that lost… this goes out to all voters and candidates in the Forest of Dean. In the run-up to the election we asked all candidates by email if they would consider signing three HOOF pledges, and also welcomed responses and comments in general. 21 out of the 48 people elected on May 7, 2015 to Forest of Dean District Council signed our three pledges to be HOOF champions. Click here to see precisely what they signed up to. Or see the precis a few paragraphs below.

Their names and comments are below, as are the responses of five other district councillors – 4 of whom expressed broad agreement with HOOF and our aims.

Our newly re-elected MP, Mark Harper, did not sign HOOF pledges but has guaranteed (see correspondence further below) to retain the Forest of Dean and Public Forest Estate in Public Ownership, though he has stated in hustings debates that he supports the 125-year lease granted to Forest Holidays (now 80% owned by Lloyds Development Capital – a private equity division of the Lloyds banking group) in Christchurch, which HOOF regards as a disposal of public forest land, with a real and acknowledged potential of becoming wholly privatised.

HOOF aims to continue engaging in constructive discussions with Defra and the new Government over our Forest’s future (as the Prime Minister, David Cameron, has acknowledged – see his letter at the bottom of this page) and to continue pushing for our aims, as per the pledges. We hope we can work with our MP in helping to secure them:

Pledge 1: for public ownership and community accountability

If elected as Forest of Dean MP or councillor in 2015 will you support and promote the HOOF ideals (statutory charter, for an evolved but sustained Forestry Commission more accountable to the public via guardians, who will deliver a statutory charter)?

Will you also actively oppose any proposal to transfer ownership to a new body including a charity or public corporation, and insist on statutory community representation within any new management structure?

Will you do this within your political Party, Parliament, council and Government (whichever is applicable)?

Pledge 2: for adequate public funding

If elected as Forest of Dean MP or councillor in 2015 will you campaign and do your utmost to secure at least £22 million annually from the public purse, or however much is required to ensure the English Public Forest Estate, and Forest of Dean?

Will you ensure the funding mechanism does not require more reliance on the private sector, charities or timber harvesting in order to provide full public benefits and maintain the balance between people, nature and economy?

Will you do this within your political Party, Parliament, council and Government (whichever is applicable)?

Pledge 3: for Special Status for the Forest of Dean

If elected as Forest of Dean MP or councillor in 2015 will you campaign and do your utmost to secure Special Status which recognises and protects the uniqueness of the Forest of Dean, its landscapes and wildlife, as well as its customs and privileges such as commoning and Verderers at a level affording protection at least as high as that of AONB or National Park status?

Will you do this within your political Party, Parliament, council and Government (whichever is applicable)?


* YES = YES x3 for all three pledges (all candidates who answered yes did so for all three pledges).

None of the candidates has filled in the pledges document with the answer ‘no’ – those who didn’t sign pledges, however, are also included below, with their comments.

Text colour relates to the candidate’s party affiliation (for Independent, it’s this colour, others represent Conservative, Green, Lib Dem, Labour and UKIP

We have used mug shots when available… the others will have to make do with blocks of colour.


Did not sign HOOF pledges but forwarded a letter from David Cameron to HOOF chairman Rich Daniels, and also sent his own letter:

HOOF_letters_from_Harper_Page_3_-_800 HOOF_letters_from_Harper_Page_4_-_800



Hoof Champions wards ELECTED





PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “Having worked with The Forestry Commission a great deal on the Neighbourhood Development Plan for Berry Hill, Christchurch and Edge End and from that been involved with them locally on a number of projects, I have no hesitation in offering the FC my full support. I think they are doing a fabulous job in extreme circumstances and whilst facing a multitude of differing problems. I do like the idea of more accountability and I do think that in  the same way that  overall policy needs public input, that local issues and intricacies need to be taken into account with some sort of local public board (guardians or governors or whatever) sitting on FC meetings and playing a full and active role in decision and policy making. My way of thinking is that our Forest is potentially very different to a public forest in Scotland so we need to have management that is peculiar to our issues as well as taking into account national policy and finance.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING:Clearly should any Government fail to commit at least the currently suggested  level of funding of £22million  it could be seen as a back door attempt to privatisation or “investment opportunity”  and at best there may well be an inability to keep services and access at present levels.. The Forestry Panel came up with such a figure to protect and enhance public forests after a great deal of investigation and I have no reason to question their findings . I would like that figure with a guaranteed annual inflation increase for each year of the next government as a fully fledged commitment and would add my name or position to any call for such a policy.. I do believe that local timber should be used in local housing but only to show that the home is in the Forest of Dean a design feature if you will and  not to the extent that any major increase in timber harvesting should take place in the Forest.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “Clearly this is an enormously contentious issue. I do feel that up to now it has been a rather blinkered view held by many that development of the Forest can only be achieved at the cost of the loss of some of that Forest. I am not entirely comfortable or indeed knowledgeable about an AONB status for the Forest. I am a  believer in the development of the tourism side of the Forest where its beauty is the Forests fortune and also because of that, it needs to be protected. It is a question of balances if you will but I suppose the mantra in my view would be enhance and protect. We would be stupid to develop the forest to such an extent that it diminishes its beauty or heritage in any way and I certainly would not favour any enclosures or any site that is restrictive to the public or prevent access to any part of the Forest.. I just want more people coming here spending time here and spending money here.

I think we should develop where opportunities arise, in the right place , I am talking heritage sites such as old pit workings and the like. Keeping their character and history and educating but attracting tourists by the right type of development. Its difficult to explain and I know I am not doing a great job of it. I always look at Cornwall as an example where we might visit a old tin mine that whilst having heritage values, education opportunities and historical relevance  may also be a child’s playground and restaurant. Sympathetic development in the right areas is I suppose what I would like to see. I fully believe The Forest needs to grow and not just sit as a relic for a few to enjoy. For me we need to protect and celebrate our past whilst providing new opportunities.

I fully support the communities development proposals at Five Acres and that’s the kind of thing on whatever scale I see in the Forest. Having sat in those feasibility meetings I know what the community have said they want there will work , will celebrate the heritage of the area, is viable and take advantage of  and bring back to life what will potentially be a empty site. We have many opportunities to develop our heritage and woodland education offerings  I am not in favour of development for development’s sake. I favour the Forest of Dean seeking special status to enable it better access to European funding, to be able to control its own “local links”  when it comes to housing lists and to have better protection of it heritage sites , similar in may ways to parts of Cornwall and dare I say the Cotswolds which seems to enjoy many more local controls.

I think the Forest deserves  that level of protection and opportunity. Imagine the Norchard Railway running throughout the Forest again, refurbished pits that visitors could go to. Development doesn’t have to be houses, or factories or indeed laser quests, it can and should fit in with what we have to celebrate.”




PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I and my party have consistently opposed the transfer or sell off of any of our woodlands and have actively supported HOOF, I have also supported HOOF on West Dean Parish Council.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “We have consistently taken this stance, and have a commitment from Ed Miliband to the same ends.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “Happy to campaign for special status for the Dean, have done in the past on the District Council, and will continue to do so.”








ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “It’s been cut too much as it is.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “It needs to be protected.”



PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I am committed to the HOOF ideals and if I am successful at the election on the 7th May I will do everything within my limited powers to actively oppose any transfer of ownership to any identified new body – whatever shape or form that proposal may take.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “I will continue to campaign and lobby whichever government is elected to endeavour to secure adequate funding from the public purse to fight to maintain the English Public Forest Estate and above all our beautiful Forest of Dean. I recognise that this will not be easy as if the Tories are elected with a clear majority the proposed cuts would be devastating BUT this would not stop me doing everything possible to highlight this as a priority.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “I have tried campaigning in the past for a Special Status for the Forest of Dean but was badly let down by my own party at the time, however I will keep pushing and I do believe that the party nationally is listening to us, especially as Baroness Jan Royall alongside HOOF have successfully raised the issue nationally. I am fully supportive of keeping the campaign live.”






PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I have been a Supporter for a free Forest for all.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “We will continue our campaign until this Forest Remains Ours.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “I would want the Forest to have a “Special Status” for ever and not to be changed when Parliament changes.”



PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I am a Proud Forester – Born and Bred. I want the Forest to remain in public ownership for ever for my grandchildren to enjoy.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “Absolutely. I will be happy to campaign for at least the £22 million, as I believe that it should be more.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “I will continue to continue to press for a Special Status as I have campaigned for this for many years.”







PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I have supported Hoof’s aims and ambitions since its inception. I am a member of West Dean Parish Council and along with colleagues have demonstrated my support within council. If I am elected to District Council on May 7th I will continue to support HOOF within council and my own political group.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “I am opposed to any reliance on private funding or charitable status that in any way impinges upon public ownership/management of the English Public Forest Estate, and in particular the Forest of Dean.”

SPECIAL STATUS “I will support any measure that provides adequate protection for continued public ownership of the Forest of Dean such as Special Status. I would however not wish to see legislation introduced that would severely affect the opportunity to develop and enhance the Five Acres Leisure /Educational facility as a community asset under community ownership. The site is currently owned by the HCA.”





Did not sign pledges, but commented:

“As promised here is my commitment to support and champion the key principles of the HOOF Campaign. I would like to point you to the letters you have received from the leader of the Conservative party and Prime Minister David Cameron and our current MP Mark Harper [see above] and I would like to fully endorse what they have said and promised and I will work hard to hold them to these promises if re-elected on May 7th.

 I will therefore if re-elected will work hard to …

 1. Retain the Public Forest Estate, including the Forest of Dean, in Public Ownership

2. Ensure the Forest of Dean-specific legislative provisions will remain in force and ensure that the Forest of Dean special status is protected

3. Ensure the Forestry Commission has the necessary resources to continue its work in woodland management, bring more woodland into active management and support thousands of acres of new tree planting.”



PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “The Forest must remain in public ownership, as it is a valuable asset for the community and needs to belong to the community.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “It is essential that it is maintained in the public’s and community’s hands and properly funded from the public purse.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “It is important that the Forest is maintained as a working forest as it is very much unique and must be protected.”





PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “Yes, because I have essentially been actively engaged in maintaining forest freedom and rights – initially for the leased land Lodge Grove from 1969 – then 1967/1981 Forestry Bill Exemption – to the planned sales 2010/1 – to the current betrayal through exchange/ sales of the Northern Quarter (irrespectively concerning estimates of upwards of £ 25 million of public funds have been invested since 1974 on behalf of the public for recreation and wildlife ) for the exclusive benefit of the forestry, Forest of Dean District Council and Homes & Community Agency and MP. We must not surrender this public assets purchased by the public for the public.”


SPECIAL STATUS: “Yes, for reason as stated above.”






PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I was a member of the HOOF steering group until a bout of illness and doctor’s instruction to reduce my workload forced me to step back. I believe that the Nation’s forests, particularly the heritage forests like the Forest of Dean, belong in public ownership under the overall stewardship of the Government which is ultimately answerable to the electorate via the ballot box.

I believe that the communities living and working within our heritage forests should have a voice within any new management structure, but this should not be to the exclusion of those, less privileged than us, who rely on our forests for recreation and leisure pursuits. Any community representation should be democratically accountable, not based solely on ministerial appointment.

My political party is committed to maintaining the Public Forest Estate.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “The sums required are insignificant compared to the value of the Public Forest Estate to the health and welfare of and ecological benefits to the Nation.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “I do believe that the Forest of Dean deserves Special Status, but I remain to be convinced that any of the currently available statuses i.e. National Park or AONB is appropriate.

The Forest of Dean is not a wilderness. It has been shaped by mankind and continues to be so. It has a rich industrial heritage which continues to this day with traditions such as Freemining and Commoning. These have a valued place within the Dean and although they need to be regulated, their existence is part of what makes our heritage forest unique.

Part of the legacy of our industrial past is that the population of the District, particularly within the three towns Lydney, Coleford and Cinderford along with the ‘Forest Ring’ of villages, is far higher than one would expect from the current level of economic activity.

It would be a betrayal of our industrial past if the Forest of Dean were to become a dormitory for the well-heeled and retired, offering no future for our youngsters.

An economically vibrant Forest of Dean based on new low-impact knowledge-based technologies is the future I wish to strive for. The protection of our woodlands and ecology is key to achieving these aspirations.”













Did not sign pledges, but responded:

Thank you for your email seeking my support to protect the Forest. I regard our local forest to be a unique national treasure and I have worked hard through my role as a conservative councillor and former board member of the South West Regional Development Agency to ensure that our national government understands and protects this for future generations.

I was pleased to hear David Heath the last government’s Forestry Minister reassure us personally at a meeting in Speech House that the Forest of Dean would be kept in public ownership and protected.

The letters to HOOF that I have copied below from Mark Harper [see near top of this page] and David Cameron set out a clear commitment to continued public ownership of the Forest and I will work locally to help deliver the outcomes promised in these letters.

I would like to thank HOOF for championing this important issue and engaging constructively to help suture a safe future for our Forest.”



PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “It’s imperative Forest communities should have a greater say in the way forests are managed.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “In my view the private sector should have NO involvement in the forest estates and should be funded solely from the nation’s purse.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “The traditions of the forest are exactly what make this area unique and it’s essential to preserve that for future generations.”





PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “Without long-term protection, our Forests will remain at the whim and fancy of whichever government wishes to derive profit, develop, fragment or remove this wonderful natural resource. Forests are central to the ecosphere that provides us with fresh air, clean water, fertile soil and climatic stability.

I would furthermore seek protection that is longer-term, sustainable and biodiverse to be enjoyed by future generations.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “Forests are our public asset. They are our security, for the future. In many ways, their value is inestimable and without doubt worthy of financial investment for us, for them for all.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “I am answering YES to the spirit of this pledge as protection is critical in the long-term. My YES is on the understanding that the wording for special protection would be consulted upon and would not obstruct appropriate sustainable development.

I would also want clarification on a number of details.

What boundary would HOOF be using for Special Status? According to your statements in this document, Page 1,

HOOF defines the Forest of Dean as not only the statutory Forest (the central block) but also outlying areas of Public Forest Estate (as marked on Ordnance Survey maps), namely Highmeadow Woods, Dymock Woods, Bearse Slade, Tidenham Chase and Wye Valley, Hope, Flaxley and Welshbury Woods, Clearwell Woods, Lords Wood, Clanna Wood and Kidnalls Wood.”

Would such special status therefore insist on the natural development of wildlife corridors across unforested, and currently privately owned, land to reconnect these disparate woods and contribute to biodiversity integrity and ecosystemic resilience?

Would such special status allow for rewilding to take place, and for instance the reintroduction of the Lynx, as is happening in 3 other national Forests today?

Would such special status allow for renewable energies to be developed which help reduce climate change and help secure the long-term future of the very forest we wish to protect?

Would such special status consider bioregional markers and indicators of sustainability such that the Dean is not impoverished by unsustainable Special Status conditions?

Would such special status allow the Forestry Commission to build in native regeneration, the felling of some non-native species and the removal of conifer plantations?

Would the Forestry Commission be permitted to run the Forest as a financially sustainable concern or be tied to conditions which would require an ever increasing public subsidy?

Would the removal of larch impact negatively on freeminers mine props?

These are a few questions I would want answered before committing to the correct special status of long term benefit to the Forest of Dean.”


YES. I will also support the Forest of Dean Green Party pledge to be announced at the HOOF Hustings on Wednesday 22nd April 2015.”





PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “The Forest of Dean is Crown property managed by the Government and it is not for them to sell off.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “To protect the native woodlands I do not want the Forest of Dean to become a vast conifer forest.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “To protect the landscape, native tree species, natural wildlife, the history, heritage (rights of Forest people) and to give the Verderers some real purpose.”


Craig profile Newest 1CRAIG LAWTON

Did not sign HOOF pledges, but responded:

Preserving our green and natural spaces is extremely important. Once they are lost it is very difficult to get them back. I therefore agree that the Forest of Dean should be preserved for future generation to use and enjoy.
I am pleased that Mark Harper raised this matter with the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and that they have both pledged to support the Forest.
I also wrote to David Cameron on 29 September 2014 when I was asked to raise a policy with the Prime Minister that I felt needed consideration. The matter that I chose to raise was that of keeping the Forest of Dean in public ownership.
I therefore agree that the Forest should not be transferred to a charity or private company and I will work hard to make sure that it remains in public ownership.
The Forest’s status is important as not only does it give it certain protections and rights, it is also one of the best ways of marketing it as a tourist destination. I therefore fully support the preservation of the Forest’s status.
If any further suggestions were made regarding enhancing the status of the Forest I will of course consider these fully to explore how they could further help the Forest both regarding its preservation and its marketability as a destination for tourism both locally and globally.
I will work to try and bring any and as much funding as is possible to the Forest. I am not setting a figure of £22 million as a target as I am unsure where this money is needed or if any potential funding would be ring-fenced.
The Forest should not have to rely on private funding or charities. However if funding and assistance is available from either of these sources, and the use of it would not go against the needs and requirements of the Forest, I will work hard to bring this to the Forest as well.
The Forest of Dean should not have to rely on one single source of funding, especially if other money is available to help.
I have worked with a number of other groups and causes to try and help them secure funding, both in my job and as a District Council candidate, and would do the same for Public Forest Estate of the Forest of Dean.”






Did not sign pledges, but responded:

Dear Hoof,
I have and always will be an ardent campaigner for the protection of all Forests, Village Greens and all things that improve and sustain wildlife and the wellbeing of our people.
I don’t like the rather threatening content of your letter and find that it is patronising.”



Did not sign pledges, but responded:

“I am committed to supporting and championing the key principles of the Hoof Campaign. If I am elected on May 7th. I will fully endorse what David Cameron, the Prime Minister and Mark Harper our current MP have said and will work to hold them to the promises they have made with regard to the Forest of Dean.

Therefore, if I am elected I will work to ensure the following:

a) that the Public Forest Estate, including the Forest of Dean, remains in public ownership.

b) Forest of Dean-specific legislative provisions remain in force and that its special status is protected.

c) that the Forestry Commission, with the necessary resources to continue its work in woodland management, can increase woodland brought into active management and support the planting of thousands of acres of new trees.”





PUBLIC OWNERSHIP AND COMMUNITY ACCOUNTABILITY: “I will continue to support and promote the HOOF ideals in order to safeguard the future of our most precious assets, our public forests and woodlands.”

ADEQUATE PUBLIC FUNDING: “I will strive to do this, making the arguments at the appropriate times.”

SPECIAL STATUS: “I will continue to do this and hope that we will achieve this in the next five years.”





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