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Statement by Clive Chatters, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority

Members, setting up a new National Park Authority is a challenge. This is the first time it has been done for over fifty years.

Over the last four years Lindsay has taken us through that process to establish a stable, well run organisation. Throughout her time with us Lindsay has shown great commitment and dedication to the New Forest, the National Park and the Authority.

Not only has the establishment of the organisation been a significant achievement in its own right but there is much by way of other successes to celebrate and I have selected two items to comment on.

For many years many organisations have sought to provide support for the Forest’s commoning economy. This has proved very difficult as our circumstances here do not comfortably fit into the national picture. Lindsay’s knowledge of how Defra works was fundamental in securing the Single Farm Payment for the whole of the open Forest to the considerable financial benefit of all practising Commoners.

Similarly the establishment of the planning service for the national park was a hugely complex process fraught with risk. If the service was not ready to run on ‘day one’ we could not have continued to provide a timely and proper service to local people seeking planning permission. As one member commented at the time, the achievement was nothing short of miraculous.

Members, I have known for some time about Lindsay’s views on the need to hand over to a successor at the right time and I understand and respect her reasoning on this. It saddens me that some parties have more recently chosen to make personal and offensive comments about her. Such nasty behaviour falls outside what I regard as common decency; I will deal with that matter separately.

I am sure that all members will join me in thanking Lindsay for her singular contribution to the creation and achievements of the National Park Authority and in wishing Lindsay well for the future

Verderers Reject Mobile Shop Proposal

After one of the longest Verderers Courts of recent times (nearly an hour), consisting of many Presentments against the Forest Holidays Mobile Shop proposal, including the NFA’s, and only two Forest Marque producers lobbying for the proposal, the Verderers have turned Forest Holidays down. The Verderers have issued this press release:

FOREST HOLIDAYS RETAIL VAN

In view of their existing policies on camping and recreational facilities, the Verderers have today decided that they are regrettably unable to give their agreement to the provision of a mobile shop at three of the Forestry Commission’s campsites in the New Forest.

The decision has been taken in response to an earlier request for the Verderers’ agreement under the provisions of Section 1(2) of the New Forest Act of 1970.

Written reasons for the decision will be given in a letter to the Deputy Surveyor, Mr Michael Seddon, a copy of which will be available on the Verderers’ website.

The Official Verderer said “This has not been an easy decision to make because we do sympathise with the Forestry Commission’s wish to make these campsites viable, but our policy is very clear on these sorts of matters and we sadly cannot support further urbanisation of the Open Forest”.

In a more detailed response to the Deputy Surveyor, the Official Verderer gave more detailed reasons for the rejection including “a mobile shop will further impinge on the peace and tranquillity that is offered by the open Forest; [and would] encourage the ongoing interference with the exercise of common rights on the Open forest”.

[To read the full Letter to the Deputy Surveyor, click here (document maintained by the Verderers http://www.verderers.org.uk/)]

New Forest Association Further Slams Forest Holidays Disregard for Forest Law

At the June Verderers court the NFA once again attacked Forest Holidays for their blatant disregard for the New Forest Acts. The New Forest Acts require application to the Verderers for any new facility, equipment or accommodation. Forest Holidays have expressed a mistaken notion that they did not require the Verderers consent for the proposed mobile shops, asking only for “agreement and support”. Forest Holidays have already begun to offer pre-erected tents and pre-pitched caravans for which they have not even bothered to ask permission of the Verderers.

In their presentment, the NFA contended that this is a very serious breach of both the spirit and the letter of the law:

“We would urge the Verderers to use every means at their disposal to ensure that they [the New Forest Acts] are adhered to. We ask the Verderers to reject the mobile shop, and to ask Forest Holidays to immediately cease and desist providing the pre-pitched tents and caravans on any New Forest Campsite.

Forest Holidays and the Forestry Commission should not be permitted to ignore the guidance of the Verderers or their protective duties to the Forest under the New Forest Acts.”

The Verderers will announce their response to the Mobile Shop proposal after their post court meeting. The NFA will continue to press the issue of the pre-pitched tents and caravans.

[To read a full text of the NFA June presentment , see the first comment below, or click here.]

New Forest Association First to Present Against Mobile Shop Proposal

At the May Verderers Court the NFA launched a pre-emptive strike against Forest Holidays proposal to run a twice daily retail van mobile shop service to three of of their New Forest campsites. The Deputy Surveyor presented the proposal to the court on behalf of Forest Holidays, asking for the Verderers “agreement and support” for the proposal. The proposal claims the service would champion the New Forest Marque local produce and would reduce car pollution from campers off-site journeys.

The NFA Presentment took issue, claiming the proposal “fails on its supposed merits.” In hiding their proposal behind the New Forest Marque, “They have dressed up their Trojan horse to look like a New Forest Pony”, and that once market forces took over Forest Holidays would be unlikely to honour a preference for local produce indefinitely. The supposedly eco-friendly reduction of car journeys presents a similar sham as two of the proposed campsites are within easy walking distance of the local shops. Local businesses would inevitably suffer loss of both direct and passing trade. The forest would suffer further ecologically if more goods are bought and consumed on site producing more rubbish and packaging waste.

The NFA further chided Forest Holidays for their overly commercialized attitude as “wholly inappropriate” to the New Forest, and for failing to show the court respect by issuing the proposal through the Forestry Commission rather than sending their own representative.

The Verderers are due to make a decision on the proposal after hearing more from the public during the upcoming June court.

[To read a full text of the NFA May presentment , see the first comment below, or click here.]

Deputy Surveyor Previews Retail Van Proposal

At this month’s New Forest Consultative Panel, the Deputy Surveyor, Mike Seddon, gave basic details of the Forest Holidays proposed campsite retail van, for which he will be asking the Verderers approval in the May Verderers Court. Having taken over the running of the shop at Holmsley campsite last season, Forest Holidays, a joint venture between the Forestry Commission and The Camping and Caravanning Club, wish to extend the shop’s offering to three other campsites, Holland’s Wood, Roundhill, and Ashurst.

The Deputy Surveyor’s presentation focussed on Forest Holiday’s aim of carrying New Forest Marque® products on the van, and branding the van itself with the New Forest Marque®. The New Forest Marque® is a branding scheme to promote and identify New Forest produce.
(see http://www.newforestproduce.com/about_the_marque.html for more info).

Forest Holidays will be promising the Verderers “that they are prepared to give preference to local products as far as possible.” They also claim “an ancillary benefit” would be reducing car journeys by campsite visitors.

Panel members slammed the proposal for its disregard for local businesses and the environmental impact on the fabric of the forest. Peter Roberts of the New Forest Association suggested that the proposals were merely “a sideshow”, and that given the statutory duty to insure that the Ancient and Ornamental woodland is kept in good or improving condition, that instead the Forestry Commission should be seeking to “remove the commercial element from the forest” which is doing actual damage to the land. Peter Sopowski, Ashurst and Colbury Parish Council, described the proposal as “a retrograde step” and that the shops dependent on the campsite trade in Ashurst are in easy walking distance of the campsite, and said, “it’s not the thin end of the wedge, it’s the sharp end.” Olive Collins, New Forest Shops Association, said she had “a feeling of deja vu”and gave a potted history of previous attempts to run mobile shops on the campsites, leading to closures of local shops, outrage, the Verderers Court filled to bursting, and the removal of the mobile shops.

[To read a full transcript of the Deputy Surveyor’s statement, see the first comment below, or click here.]

New Forest National Park Joins Ancient Tree Hunt

The New Forest National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission are adding their resources to bring the New Forest into the Ancient Tree Hunt project. The goal of the Ancient Tree Hunt is to map our heritage of trees. The project began in 2004 as a joint partnership between the Ancient Trees Forum and the Tree Register of the British Isles. Now with the Woodland Trust on board, and some Heritage Lottery Fund money, the project is spreading throughout the UK.

Volunteers armed with GPS locators and measuring tape will be helping to survey trees in the New Forest. Forester Harry Oram will be training the first set of volunteers at Queen’s House in mid-May.

The NFA looks forward to the results of the survey. It will be a great boon to have the wonderful trees of our Ancient and Ornamental woodlands recorded for future research and preservation.

More info: http://www.ancient-tree-hunt.org.uk/

Retail Van for Campsites Causes Concern

The Verderers have issued a press release:

FOREST HOLIDAYS RETAIL VAN

The Forestry Commission has made a formal submission to the Verderers in relation to its desire to operate a mobile shop that will visit all of its campsites in the Forest.

The Verderers regard this proposal as one that clearly requires their consent under the New Forest Acts, and they have thus invited the Forestry Commission to make a presentment of its own at the May Verdeiers’ Court giving full details of its plans.

The Verderers will then wait until the June Court to hear any presentments from the public, following which they will make a decision.

The Official Verderer said “There is still a lot of detail about this proposal that needs to be revealed and we hope the Forestry Commission will provide this at our May Court. We would like to hear the public’s views on the proposals and our June court provides that opportunity”.

This follows on from a presentment made by the New Forest Commoners Defence Association in the April Verderers Court. The NFCDA expressed concern that the mobile shop, along with an alleged “permanent camp places” provision, “smacks of a Center Parcs theme.”

The NFA are worried that this move by Forest Holidays represents a further commercialisation of the campsites and will have a negative impact on local businesses which are very dependent on the tourist trade. The NFA will be seeking further information before answering the Forestry Commission’s presentment in the June Verderers Court.

Verderers Frown on Early Campsite Openings

Despite warnings from the Verderers, Forest Holidays have opened their New Forest campsites before the agreed upon date for the second year running. The current agreement states that campsites should not open before the Thursday before Easter Bank Holiday.

The full announcement from the Official Verderer in today’s Court is as follows:

“Forest Campsites:

Almost exactly one year ago we received an unequivocal assurance from the Deputy Surveyor that campsites in the Forest will open only on the agreed date, which is the Thursday before the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend. Last year, the campsites opened earlier than that date, without any notice or prior agreement with ourselves. Having received that assurance we were satisfied that this would not happen again. To our astonishment and considerable dismay the campsites once again have opened early, and we will be seeking a full explanation for this from the Deputy Surveyor when we meet in committee this morning.”

Forest Holidays, which was set up in May 2006, is a public private partnership between the Forestry Commission and The Camping and Caravanning Club. While last year’s “mistake” was perhaps more forgiveable in Forest Holiday’s first full year of operation in the New Forest, we can only guess what their excuse is this time. Perhaps they were thrown with last year’s Easter falling in March.

Studley Castle Update

In the March Verderers Court, the NFA made a presentment expressing dismay over the damage done to the Studley Castle Scheduled Ancient Monument by Forestry Commission Contractors. The NFA asked the Verderers to press the Forestry Commission to put better procedures in place to avoid future damage to the precious archaeological heritage of the Forest. In response, the Verderers have passed our concerns to the Deputy Surveyor, Mike Seddon.

As announced by the Official Verderer at today’s April 2009 court, “Mr Seddon agreed that this was a serious incident that was caused by lack of communication.” The Official Verderer continued, “Clearly procedures need to be tightened up; the Deputy Surveyor has agreed that this will be done.”

Easter Camping Figures for Hollands Wood

The New Forest Association have been provided with unofficial estimated figures of the number of pitches used at the Hollands Wood campsite over the Easter Holiday weekend:


Caravans &#160&#160&#160&#160 74 &#160&#160&#160 18% of total


Motorhomes &#160&#160 50 &#160&#160&#160 12% of total


Tents&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160 290 &#160&#160&#160 70% of total


Total&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160&#160 414

It should be noted that the Hollands Wood campsite is in an Ancient and Ornamental Woodland and bears close monitoring. On the upside the surveyor noted no encroachment beyond the boundaries. On the downside the surveyor also witnessed a pony eating the remains of a barbeque.