Election 2015 England

Forest of Dean election candidates agree woodland should be protected

Mitcheldean road sign
Image caption The Forest of Dean constituency sits near the border with Wales

The Forest of Dean needs to be protected for future generations, according to the constituency's election candidates.

James Greenwood, Green Party candidate, said he was "fed up with the constant sell-off threat" to the woodland.

Conservative's Mark Harper and Liberal Democrat's Chris Coleman agreed the forest should remain publicly-owned.

Labour's Steve Parry-Hearn wanted legal protection while UKIP's Steve Stanbury said it was a "precious resource".

The five parliamentary candidates had been asked about the leasing of forest land when they took part in a BBC Gloucestershire radio debate on Wednesday.

Mr Greenwood referred to a holiday company which he said had been given a 125-year lease for a piece of land.

He said: "We have to see a moratorium on land being disposed in the forest and stop these long leases."

He claimed a lease could be traded and said it was "effectively a sell-off".

Mr Harper said: "It's very important to develop tourism - getting more people to come to the Forest of Dean and spending money and developing local jobs is a very good thing and should be encouraged."

He said the forest should be kept in "public ownership".

Mr Parry-Hearn said he was against long leases adding: "We could find ourselves in a position where there is privatisation because that lease could then be sold on."

Lib Dem Chris Coleman said: "When you're talking about a 125-year lease, that is longer than any of us in this room can imagine - that is a sell-off."

He said he was "wholeheartedly against privatisation".

UKIP's Steve Stanbury said the management of the forest should be "done in a balanced way".

He said: "We need to make sure the business community, on which so many livelihoods depend, is actually engaged and that the forest works for everybody."

The candidates for the constituency are:

Christopher Coleman - Liberal Democrat

James Greenwood - Green

Mark Harper - Conservative

Steve Parry-Hearn - Labour

Steve Stanbury - UKIP

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