Our Open Letter

To Simon Hodgson, CEO of Forest Enterprise England

The following is an open letter we've sent to Simon Hodgson, CEO of Forest Enterprise England.

Dear Mr Hodgson,

We are contacting you regarding the Forestry Commission's current strategy of leasing its land including Leith Hill and Sherwood Forest to oil drilling companies for fossil fuel extraction.

We're aware that you have previously stood by this position when questioned about its ethical flaws and its contradiction of your corporate mission statement. We also realise that when the Leith Hill lease was signed, whomever performed your due diligence on that deal had less information than has subsequently become available in the public domain. The Leith Hill drill is now being seen as a key strategic play in what the oil companies are referring to as "the industrialisation of the Weald". Your tenants may be telling you that this will be a conventional well, however that is not what they are telling their investors.

On 12th October the government published its new Clean Growth Strategy. It is now surely beholden upon the Forestry Commission to reassess its minerals strategy, to honour fully your corporate mission statement to protect our woodlands, and to desist in selling them off to the fossil fuel industry. This is not a question of energy security. There is nothing secure about a technology that must be discarded shortly if we are to avoid catastrophic climate change. Every extra pound invested now in fossil fuels is further escalating the burden of clean-up costs we are pushing onto future generations.

Right now you have the opportunity to show true leadership in helping our country deliver on its critically important climate targets (see DEFRA's 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessmenta), a stance for which you would undoubtably be widely recognised and rightly praised. We are also sure your commercial partners will welcome and applaud such a change in direction given its coherence with the ethical and brand values they are seeking to promote in their relationships with you. We realise the Forestry Commission is under pressure from funding cuts. However it is simply not sustainable to pursue commercial opportunities (e.g. the Gruffalo partnership and Forestry Live) that exploit a brand image which your actions are completely undermining. You need to choose on which side of history you intend to stand. If you continue to do deals with the oil industry then you will inevitably end up losing all your current positive/ethical branding opportunities.

Our guess is that many within your organisation are already unhappy about your current strategic direction and realise that it has at best a short remaining lifespan. On that basis we urge you to take a proactive stance on this now and to do the right thing. Please announce:

  1. that the Forestry Commission will not be renewing Europa's Bury Hill Wood lease in 2018
  2. that you now intend to protect Sherwood Forest

The alternative is that you risk end up being perceived as a hypocritical organisation that was eventually forced to behave ethically due to sustained public pressure.


Leith Hill Community Blues Band