Keith Taylor, Green Party MEP for the South East, hit out at Forest Enterprise England (FEE) after the public body refused to meet local residents to hear their concerns about the management of FEE land in Dorking.
Forest Enterprise England is the executive agency of the Forestry Commission (FC) that manages the nation’s forest estate for the UK government.
A representative of the FEE was invited to speak to the MEP and local residents on Wednesday about the public body's commercial relationship with the oil and gas drilling firm planning to drill the Leith Hill site in the Surrey Hills.
Instead, in a blunt response to the senior Green politician's request, the FEE's chairman Simon Hodgson said: "I see no benefit in having a meeting on site or indeed elsewhere".
'Stunned' by the response, Mr Taylor has offered Mr Hodgson the olive branch of a second invitation to hear residents' concerns. Mr Hodgson again rejected the invitation.
In his absence, Mr Taylor MEP 'empty chaired' the FEE chief as the meeting with local residents at the Leith Hill site went ahead.
Julian Everett, from the group A Voice for Leith Hill, explained to the Green MEP how the community group had offered to take over the lease in the Surrey Hills. He said:
"It's shocking that, so far, the Forestry Commission, which is a public body, has ignored our requests to be considered to take over the lease at Leith Hill. Currently, the site is closed to public access, despite being public access land, and earmarked for environmentally-destructive oil drilling."
"A Voice for Leith Hill has pledged to fundraise and put the land to use for the benefit of the community and the environment, rather than the profit margins of oil and gas firms. We are urging the Forestry Commission to think again about being in bed with the oil and gas industry."
Mr Taylor MEP, a member of the European Parliament's Environment Committee and European Chair of the Climate Parliament, said:
"I find it extraordinary that a public body funded by taxpayers has flat out refused to meet with those taxpayers and their elected representative. The organisation has completely failed to twig just how bad this looks."
"Residents have legitimate concerns that must be heard. It is entirely right to question why a public body with explicit environmental and climate change commitments continues to engage in a commercial partnership that facilitates climate-destructive drilling in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty."
"Mr Hodgson might have refused to meet us, but we will make sure he hears our message loud and clear: the Forestry Commission getting into bed with the oil and gas industry is a dereliction of the organisation's public duty."