HC Deb 22 February 1866 vol 181 cc896-7

said, he would beg to ask the First Commissioner of Works, Whether he is aware of inclosures now proceeding in Epping Forest to the extent of many hundred acres, especially near Loughton, Woodford, and Epping; whether he is aware that Lord Cowley has already inclosed nearly 300 acres since the announcement was made of the intentions of Her Majesty's Government in reference to open spaces; whether the Crown has any rights over the land so inclosed, or, if not, the rate per acre at which the Crown's forestal rights have been purchased; and whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take any steps to prevent any further inclosures, pending the introduction and passing of the Bill promised to be introduced early this Session?


Sir, the reply of the Government to the first Question of the hon. Member is that the Department of Woods is not aware of any inclosures now going on at Epping, except within those portions of the forest the forestal rights of the Crown over which have been purchased by individuals. The Government have no information of what is being done on private property, with which they have no concern. The answer to the second Question is, that it is very probable Lord Cowley may have inclosed a certain number of acres—assuming that his is the property—certain rights in respect to which were purchased by Lord Mornington some years ago. As to the remainder of the Question and the rent per acre, all the particulars were laid before Parliament, I think, in 1864. I believe the forestal rights over particular land in question, if it be the land which I suppose it to be, were purchased at between £4 and £5 per acre. In answer to the last Question, I have to state that, with respect to land, the forestal rights over which have been purchased by private individuals, Government has no intention and no power to interfere. With respect to land, the forestal rights over which have not been purchased, the Government is in this position. Two Committees have inquired into the subject, one in 1863 and the other in 1865. The recommendation of the first Committee was as follows:— Two courses presented themselves to the Committee as applicable to the remaining portion of Waltham Forest; one is, to discontinue the sale of the forestal rights of the Crown, vigilantly to maintain those rights without regard to the question of cost for the purpose of preventing all future inclosures, and to preserve the forest in its present extent and wild uninclosed condition. The other course is to obtain the sanction of Parliament for the inclosure of the remaining portion of the forest, to ascertain the rights of the several parties interested, and to make provision, partly by those means and partly by purchase, for securing an adequate portion of the forest for those purposes of health and recreation for which it has been proved to your Committee this forest has from time immemorial been enjoyed by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and the metropolis. Your Committee are of opinion that to employ the forestal rights of the Crown for the purpose of obstructing the process of inclosure to which the lords, commons, and copyholders of the manors comprised within the forest are entitled in common with all other persons similarly situated would not only be a course of doubtful justice, but might, in accordance with the experience of the past, fail in securing the desired object. The Committee of 1865 took the opposite view, and they said— Your Committee entirely concur in the first alternative presented by the Report of 1863, and apply it to all Royal forests within the metropolitan area—namely, 'that the forestal rights of the Crown should be vigilantly maintained, without regard to the question of cost, for the purpose of preventing all future inclosures, and to preserve the forest in its present extent and wild uninclosed condition.' Having these two conflicting recommendations, the Government have felt much difficulty in arriving at a decision. The question of the best arrangements for securing the recreation of the people of the metropolis does not primarily concern the Treasury, but I have been in communication with the Home Office and the Metropolitan Board of Works, and I have every hope that something may be done which, without entailing legal expenses on the Department of Woods which is a Revenue Department, may meet the wishes of this House. Meantime, no fresh instructions have been given to that department.

In reply to Mr. SANDFORD,


said, the correspondence was not concluded, and it was unusual to lay incomplete correspondence on the table. When the proposal of the Government is before the House, if the hon. Member repeats his Question as to the correspondence, no doubt a satisfactory answer will be given.