MORE than 1,500 people cheered and chanted in Grizedale Forest opposing the Government’s plans to sell-off forests today.

Mountain bikers, walkers, horseriders and families turned up last Sunday to rally against the plans which have been branded a ‘sham’.

Placard-waving crowds at the event, organised by local campaign group Save Lakelands Forests, saw Westmorland and Lonsdale PM Tim Farron, and John Woodcock, MP for Barrow, rip up copies of the Government’s Public Bodies Reform bill.

The pair vowed to fight the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs consultation on forest sales and also to vote against two specific clauses in the Public Bodies Reform bill when it is heard in the House of Commons in six weeks’ time.

Labour MP John Woodcock said: “Governments have to govern with the consent of the people and on this issue you are making it very clear that they simply do not have that consent.”

Eric Robson, chairman of Cumbria Tourism, said: “The sham is that they are going to have a consultation while at the same time the Government pushes on with two clauses in the Public Bodies Reform Bill which would dramatically change what happens.

“At the moment Caroline Spelman [secretary of state for Defra] can only sell off 15 per cent of Forestry Commission land but if these two clauses are passed into law she and future secretaries of state will be able to sell off the lot without any further consultation.

"It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Protest organiser Mike Morton, of Save Lakeland Forests, said the protest against forest sales had cut right across social divides.

"If we're going to have any sort of meaningful consultation at all the Government needs to abandon those clauses because otherwise it shows the Government has already made up its mind.

"From sports people, local farmers, bird watchers, 'right to roam' activists, families...people from all sorts of backgrounds are all united behind the same cause - to stop the Government selling off our forests."

Mountain biker Tim Dalzell, from Windermere, said: "I came to the rally because I want to see this place stay open and as a mountain biker I'm interested in keeping the woods as they are.

"With action like today we've got a good chance of changing their minds."