Health and safety axe on 800-year-old right to collect firewood

By Jaya Narain
The Daily Mail
Nov. 01, 2008

For the past 12 years, retired builder Mike Kamp has exercised his age-old right to collect firewood from the forest near his home.

But the health and safety axe has finally come down on an 800-year-old tradition which dates back to the Magna Carta.

Forestry chiefs say they have been forced to overrule the charter due to the 'increasing constraints' of modern legislation.

The Magna Carta of 1215 included a Forest Charter which recognised the rights of commoners to get subsistence from common land. They were granted 'estovers' - dead wood - for fuel, to repair their homes, fix tools or make charcoal.

Mr Kamp, 59, uses a wood-burning stove at his cottage near Betwys-y-Coed, North Wales, and enjoys walking through nearby Gwydir Forest. But now he has been told by Forestry Commission Wales that he can no longer buy a licence to forage.

Mr Kamp said: 'They are claiming there are health and safety issues. But people have walked through the woods collecting firewood for hundreds and hundreds of years without too many safety problems.'

Soaring fuel prices have led to more and more people combing woodland and forests for firewood. But the Forestry Commission is suggesting they buy the same wood from local merchants - who will still be allowed into the forests.

Mr Kamp said: 'That would be very carbon-intensive. The contractors would need vehicles to go into the forests to get the wood and to move it to the users. That defeats the whole object of the exercise.'

Peter Garson, head of estate management at the Forestry Commission Wales, said: 'We understand Mr Kamp's disappointment, but this is an area where we are subject to increasing constraints in terms of health and safety.

'We have a duty of care to the public in our wood.'

The ban currently applies only to Wales, but is likely to be extended to Forestry Commission woods across Britain.








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