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Recreation Management Strategy and Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership Strategy

Our representation to Public Questions from the January meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority. We point out flaws in the draft interpretation of last years Recreation Management Strategy Survey (which goes too far in over egging the results), and the undercooked Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership Strategy (which doesn’t go nearly far enough).

Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership Strategy

… is an important initiative, however it currently falls short by only considering SPA planning designations and not the full range of important coastal and international designations. As with much mitigation work, little has been done to scale the mitigation to the level of protected features (Thames Basin Heaths is a decent baseline, but has much fewer protected features than our coastline).[*] The Government’s new 25 Year Environment Plan seeks to boost conservation of both designated and undesignated habitats. With these shortcomings, and the new considerations of the recently minted 25 year plan, it would be premature to adopt. We hope you will seek a review and have the strategy amended accordingly.

Recreation Management Strategy

I have previously noted problems with the survey. It made far too much reference to the previous RMS, including out-of-context headings (not even explained as “Summary of 2010 actions”), which constrained much debate to those topics, and were seen as manipulative leading statements. The responses are from an unscientific self-selecting sample, and although the Findings Report admits this[†], it then characterizes some results as authoritative, an unwarranted exaggeration. I’ll give one example:

“Implement and promote the England Coast Path and associated access rights” was the survey summary for Coastal Access. This provided no explanation that the “Associated rights” included coastal margin / spreading room which would potentially turn 3500 acres of our most sensitive breeding and wintering bird habitats (with up to five overlapping layers of national and international designations including an Area of Special Protection) into access land. 23 respondents thought ”the route will attract people away from more sensitive inland areas” (a polar opposite of the truth). It is more than likely that few had heard of the ECP outside of the survey, or would have nominated it, if it hadn’t been mentioned. Yet the concluding report states “The consultation responses suggest that there is wide public support for the England Coast Path,”[‡] which is a very strong extrapolation of 22% of 1500 respondents[§]. If less than a quarter support a proposal, is that wide? If mooted, absent its implications, is that even valid?

Although I do not doubt the hard work, enthusiasm, and sincerity of those conducting this opinion poll. Please do not take as a referendum what has been a success of public engagement, but falls very short of providing anything more than the vaguest bellwether. The Recreation Management Strategy should be driven primarily by the need to fulfill the purposes and protect the special qualities of the National Park. It should focus on specific and practical steps for Management of Recreation not another list of aspirations promising delivery of recreation.

Unfortunately the format of Public Questions at NFNPA meetings limits each speaker to 3 minutes, even when speaking on multiple subjects. This requires a terse approach and presumption of knowledge of underlying reports (which NPA members ought to, but are not guaranteed to have read or digested). Further reading for the curious is noted below:

[*] NFNPA 538/18 – Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership Strategy Adoption Annex 1 page 19 6.15 “The methodology used to calculate the figures is based on that developed by LPA’s within the Thames Basin Heaths mitigation scheme.”

[†] NFNPA 539/18 Recreation Management Strategy Annex 1 Findings Report “No attempt was made to limit participation in the consultation to a balanced and representative sample survey approach of the local (or wider) population.” page 3 para 8

[‡] NFNPA 539/18 – Recreation Management Strategy Annex 2 page 8, 3.7

[§] 528 (34%) responded to the “Coastal Access” heading, 343 (22%) supported the summary of the topic actions.

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