CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to continue their fight to keep the nation’s forests in public ownership, despite a Government U-turn on plans to sell 225,000 hectares of woodland.

The coalition was forced into the humiliating climbdown last month after a public outcry against proposals to raise £250m by selling Forestry Commission woodland.

But campaigners are still concerned about the future of the region’s forests.

They are worried about: 􀁥 Who will be on a panel created to advise ministers on forestry; 􀁥 Spending cuts which could see 400 Forestry Commission jobs axed; 􀁥 That the Government will use existing laws to sell 15 per cent of the country’s woods, raising £100m.

Last night, more than 30 people packed a public meeting in Durham Town Hall’s Lantern Room to voice their concerns.

One woman said: “David Cameron’s got some serious egg on his face. But I think they are going to sell off another 15 per cent here and there. He doesn’t like to be a loser.”

Another said the rich heritage of the land was at risk.

Durham City’s Labour MP, Roberta Blackman-Woods, who called the meeting, said: “Although selling off the totality of the Forestry Commission land has gone off the agenda – and I don’t think the Government will try it again in the near future – Caroline Spelman (the Environment Secretary) has said the Government’s still looking to sell 15 per cent.

“We need to keep writing in to say, ‘We’re not going to take our eye off this’. Everybody has to be absolutely vigilant.”

The meeting agreed to write to Ms Spelman outlining its concerns and Dr Blackman- Woods said she would circulate the letter among fellow MPs to use as a template to do the same.

Meanwhile, Vicky Chilcott, from Hamsterley Forestbased Hamsterley Trailblazers mountain bike team, said she felt people had been conned by the U-turn.

“It’s great the Government has said they are not going to sell off the land, but if there are no Forestry Commission staff to look after it, we will be no better off,” she said.

Ms Spelman, who admitted the Government “got it wrong” on the major sell-off, has said the new panel’s membership and terms of reference would be announced shortly.