THE VERDERERS of the New Forest, though derived from an archaic institution, have powers and functions adapted to modern circumstances. They have statutory functions to regulate all matters relating to common rights, and they protect the Forest through a requirement that their consent is required for any development on the unenclosed Crown lands. Their court provides a forum for the expression of local views. We are aware that limited financial resources have sometimes been reflected in the ability of the Verderers adequately to fulfil their functions.
THE FORESTRY COMMISSION has managed the Crown lands of the New Forest since 1923. In the past it converted much of the Inclosures from broadleaved to conifer plantations, caused extensive damage to the unenclosed woodlands, bogs and other open forest habitats, and with the consent of the Verderers planted up large areas of unenclosed Forest with more conifers. Following the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), which required the Commission to accommodate nature conservation, the damage diminished in scale. In more recent times the Forestry Commission has been involved in a new approach to landscape through Forest Design Plans; and is engaged in habitat restoration projects. These initiatives are welcome, but we believe that the Forestry Commission continues to show a reluctance to grasp the difficult nettles of intensified recreational demand and there remain some serious questions about the Commission’s sensitivity towards the management of the Crown lands and its fragile and rare natural habitats. We contend that the management of the Crown land of the New Forest for the conservation and enhancement of its special qualities is a matter of national and international importance.
THE NEW FOREST NATIONAL PARK was designated in 2005, and in April 2006 the NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY assumed its full powers and responsibilities, including as the sole local planning authority for the New Forest National Park. We believe that the designation of the New Forest as a National Park could bring with it great potential for the future of the Forest.
- The continuing role of the Verderers as a regulating authority for the pastoral use of the Forest and protector of its landscape and natural habitats.
- Provision of public funds to the Verderers through appropriate mechanisms that acknowledge the Verderers’ independence.
- Ownership and management responsibility for the Crown lands of the New Forest remaining in the public domain.
- The adequate resourcing of the managing authority for the Crown lands with estate workers, supervisors, keepers, recreational wardens and ecologists, to support it in its principle function of protecting and conserving the unique character of the New Forest.
We will work with each of the principal New Forest Administrative bodies and act as a critical friend. Where we are able we will join them in partnership projects intended to further the protection and enhancement of the Forest. We will seek to influence their members and officers so as to ensure their commitment to the long-term conservation and enhancement of the New Forest. We will be ready to approve and actively support constructive ideas, but also to oppose and campaign against those that are not in the best interests of the Forest.
In addition we will work to encourage Natural England to act in a strong and consistent fashion to protect the Forest in carrying out its statutory duties in relation to those areas of the New Forest National Park covered by legislation that falls within its remit.