CAMPAIGNERS say they believe the New Forest is set to escape plans to sell a massive amount of Forestry Commission land.

About half the 1.85m acres of woodland nationally is set to be privatised to raise cash for the Treasury as the Governmment battles Britain’s record deficit of £156bn.

The move has sparked fears that Center Parcs and golf courses could be built on treasured sites across the country.

Government officials have refused to rule out the possibility of the New Forest being included in the massive sell-off.

However, councillors and members of the National Park Authority say they believe the ancient woodland is unlikely to form part of the scheme.

That view is shared by the New Forest Association, one of Britain’s oldest conservation bodies.

The chairman, William Ziegler, said: “What other organisation would want to buy an asset with such an enormous liability attached to it? Asked about the possibility of unwanted development he pointed to strict planning policies and the Forest’s status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

“I just don’t see it happening,” he said.

The Official Verderer, Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, added: “I’m confident that the Government, particularly because of its clearly started commitment to conservation, will quickly recognise that the open forest is best managed directly by the Forestry Commission on behalf of the nation.”