There has been some uninformed and misleading speculation on this issue, as I am happy to make clear that the Infrastructure Bill’s provisions will have no impact on the public forest estate.
Clause 21 of the Infrastructure Bill is completely unconnected to the government’s stated policy to establish a new public body to hold the public forest estate.
The government has no intention of transferring land from the new body to the Homes and Communities Agency, as the public forest estate is currently in use and not declared surplus. As such, the powers will not be used in relation to this body and will therefore have no effect on it.
Instead, Clause 21 simply enables surplus land to transfer directly from named public bodies directly to the Homes and Communities Agency, rather than being transferred into the ownership of a Whitehall department first, saving unnecessary bureaucracy. The underlying policy intention is to make it easier for surplus and redundant brownfield land to be sold and help build more homes.
The Clause 21 arrangements will only apply to public bodies included on a list set out in secondary legislation. I can confirm that this list will not include the new body to hold the public forest estate.