The future of the Public Forest Estate (PFE) in England

Analysis of responses to the suspended Public Consultation Jan-Feb 2011.

Report front coverPFE Consultation Analysis 2011 (PDF-301K)


On 27 January 2011 the Forestry Commission England and DEFRA opened a consultation on the future of the public forest estate in England. The consultation was suspended after three weeks, on 17 February 2011.


At the date of the suspension over 7000 responses had been received. In announcing the suspension of the consultation, the government convened an Independent Panel to look into options for the future of forestry policy in England, and the Secretary of State made a commitment that ‘all those responses and the questions contained in the consultation will be part of the work that the Independent Panel will review’ (Hansard, 17 February 2011).

Forest Research's role

Forest Research was contracted to perform an independent analysis of those responses in order to:

  • ensure they are summarised rigorously
  • gauge the initial public response
  • access the many ideas and suggestions contained in the responses.

The subsequent analysis (see report at top of page) has been sent to the Independent Panel to add to the information they are gathering before making recommendations to Government on the the future direction of forestry and woodland policy in England and on the role of the Forestry Commission in implementing policy.

The analysis was performed by our Social and Economic Research Group.

About the analysis

All the quantitative responses, and qualitative responses to half of the open questions, are analysed, with pointers to areas where most innovation and suggestions for future directions can be found.

It is important to note that the responses are only those submitted in the first quarter of the consultation period, and that most consultations receive the great majority of responses in the last week of a 12 week process. The responses are therefore likely to represent only a small cross-section of potential respondents, and are not representative of wider public opinion. In particular, there were few organisational responses and the consultation data cannot be used as a source of views from stakeholder organisations.

Furthermore, only 1.3% of respondents responded off-line. DEFRA staff leading on analysis of other recent public consultations indicate that more typically, up to 50% of responses are made off-line. This suggests that those who would have responded on paper or email (i.e. those less comfortable with the use of the internet) are also under-represented in this early response.

Accordingly we have taken advice that it is not appropriate to include indications of statistical significance of difference between stakeholder groups.