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Presentment: Ashurst Hospital Site

1909 Map including the layout of the Ashurst Workhouse

 

We welcome a guest post from our former chair, Peter Roberts, who gave this Presentment in this month’s Verderers Court.

Ashurst workhouse from the west c.1907.

My name is Peter Roberts. I am a former Verderer and a former resident of Ashurst.

Yesterday the National Park Authority published their Plan Amendments which includes the use of of land at Ashurst for housing. This land is the former Workhouse Site, which was taken from the open Forest in 1836. When the grant for the land was made there was a specific reservation that in the event of the workhouse no longer being required it should revert to the Forest. Seven acres of the site were returned to the Forest in 1988, thanks mainly to the work of the late Verderer David Stagg.

The remaining land is commonable land from which the common rights have never been removed. It should be returned to the open Forest for grazing for the commoners stock. I implore you to object most strongly to the National Park Proposed Main Modifications and work towards returning this land to the rightful users.


1836 Site Plan

Notes:
The grant was made on 31st December 1836 and may be found in the Wood Lease Books now held by the Forestry Commission in Queen’s House (Vol 4 pp 279-285). The original is at Kew: NRA ‘Grants of land for Workhouse 1836-1915’, F10/52 4079/1.

We thank Peter for permission to share this Presentment, and his notes.  For the 150th Anniversary of the New Forest Association (aka Friends of the New Forest) he wrote our history in Saving the New Forest.

At last month’s court, in a short, off the cuff, two sentence presentment, one of our trustees similarly urged the Verderers to assert the Forest’s rights to the land in question. Our planning committee had made a representation to the New Forest National Park Local Plan Inspectors regarding the site.  Notes from both Peter Roberts and Richard Reeves regarding the site were shared privately with the Verderers at that time.

New Forest Local Plan Modifications are open to consultation until 31st May 2019.  More information, including the additional Ashurst Workhouse allocation, which does NOT recognize nor even mentions the Forest rights of the portion not returned to the Forest, may be found here.

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Rewilding The New Forest?

Sir Charles Burrell, Diana Westerhoff, Debbie Tann and Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre

The growl of a large grizzly bear filled the hall at Lyndhurst Community Centre and the audience of two hundred people gasped. As curtains drew back and they were confronted with a huge picture of the bear, they listened attentively to Sir Charles Burrell’s description of his pioneering rewilding project at his family estate, Knepp, in West Sussex. At the event organised by the Friends of the New Forest, Sir Charles explained that rewilding is not currently about bringing back such major predators as we don’t have the right eco-systems. He showed how Britain has only tiny pockets of true ‘nature’, and we need to care for these but also need more, bigger, better and more joined-up areas if we are to have a real impact on nature conservation.

Sir Charles went on to describe how over a period of six years, the Knepp estate moved away from traditional arable and pastoral farming on what he said was very poor quality Wealden Clay land, whose production capacity was falling short of national averages. He divided the estate into three main areas, which were treated differently. In the southern block, formerly mainly arable land, field hedges were removed, and the land was stocked with Tamworth pigs, Old English Longhorn cattle and Exmoor ponies, while three species of deer soon made themselves at home.  Scrub developed quickly, though each former field responded differently.

The middle block where the old Knepp Castle had been was believed to be a cultural landscape, a park with a large hammer pond designed by Repton. It was re-seeded with grass and wildflowers, which deterred an exuberant explosion of scrub. The resulting grassland is stocked with ponies, cattle and deer but no pigs.

The northern block had been farmed for dairy cattle, and was re-seeded with grasses but no wildflowers, and is now stocked just with cattle. The resulting open farmscape is slowly developing a little scrub. Sir Charles explained how he had been criticised for creating scrubland, and pointed out that pollen data from 6,000 years ago reveals that only one third of Britain was covered by woodland, contrary to the popular myth that a squirrel could once pass from tree to tree without touching the ground from Lands End to John O’Groats.

The Knepp project is steered by an advisory board of international experts from many relevant fields,. In order to have a more convenient term for a ‘long-term, minimum intervention, natural process-led area’, which although accurate would hardly inspire anyone,  ‘rewilding’ was adopted. This team looked at the UK’s extinct animals and selected proxies which would be appropriate, for example, cattle to replace aurochs. Sir Charles enthusiastically described how the animals seem to complement each other, and the new habitats have drawn in huge numbers and varieties of insects, birds and animals as well as plants, many more than when the estate was farmed traditionally. The estate employs a full-time ecologist to survey, monitor and record these. They have also found that their soil biodiversity and function have improved significantly.

Perhaps surprisingly Sir Charles then demonstrated how the changes have also benefitted the estate financially. Even excluding the tourism, camping and glamping activities which he has developed, the income from the farming side of the estate now well exceeds the national average by some 30%.

Sir Charles was then joined on the platform by Debbie Tann, Chief Executive of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, and Diana Westerhoff, a Verderer, to answer questions from the floor. Debbie Tann said that she has visited Knepp and been most impressed by what the estate is doing. She said that wildlife in Britain is disappearing at an alarming rate and we need imagination and new bold thinking to put nature into recovery. She reported that the Trust is looking for opportunities in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight to create larger scale reserves and one or two ‘Knepps’.

Diana Westerhoff commented that while the New Forest is very different to Knepp, there have been some efforts at rewilding. The Forest Design Plan is resulting in restoration to traditional land use in some areas, while the wetland restoration programme is returning lost habitats to a favourable condition.

Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, President of the Friends of the New Forest, noted that one of the six reasons for rewilding listed on the Knepp website was the revitalisation of communities, and wondered how this could be achieved where farms are smaller. To this question, Sir Charles responded with news of an upland farmer he had met at the Oxford farming conference. By changing his pattern of sheep farming including actually reducing stock numbers, and diversifying into holiday lets, he had managed to make his business much more sustainable.

In reply to a question about the impact of global warming on wildlife habitats, Debbie Tann agreed that there is some impact on habitats but possibly more on the food needed by wildlife. She gave the examples of a crash in insect numbers and changes in timing of bird migration having severe effects. Diana Westerhoff added an example of the falcon species, the hobby, declining in the Forest because of a decline in the numbers of house martins, a favoured food of their young. And Sir Charles gave his own example of cuckoos, which have returned to Knepp in good numbers. However they feed with swifts in sub-Saharan Africa, and if it doesn’t rain there for five weeks and there are no insects, they never arrive in Britain.

Another audience member proposed that people are increasingly intolerant of wild landscapes and incapable of being sensible round large herbivores, and wondered if rewilding as a concept would help. Maybe because visitors to Knepp understand they are visiting a ‘rewilded’ landscape, they are more respectful of the large grazing herbivores than visitors to the New Forest are with the free-roaming livestock. Sir Charles recalled a neighbouring farmer who runs educational visits finding that even young farmers could not name common trees, and he suggested that we need more nature education as part of the curriculum. Debbie Tann suggested that we need to rewild people and regretted that many children have never known the fun of running around in long grass.

Questioned about the complexities of environmental stewardship schemes, Sir Charles noted that the Rural Payments Agency uses Google satellite images to categorise landscape, resulting in confused and contradictory definitions which need to be sorted out soon. Diana Westerhoff reported that the Higher Level Stewardship scheme includes more or less all grazed land but the Rural Payments Agency excludes gorse as non-grazing land even though ponies happily eat it in winter.

Comparing the New Forest to Knepp, the next questioner noted that while Knepp has withdrawn from management, in the New Forest we manage both land and stock much more. Diana Westerhoff pointed out that the Forest starts from a very different position, resulting from biodiversity developed over thousands of years. It would be good to have other Knepps around the Forest but we could lose from emulating it in the Forest itself. Debbie Tann added that only 55% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest in the Forest are classified as in a ‘favourable’ condition, little better than  compared with 45% across the whole of Hampshire, and some extra wilding activity might be helpful to improve this. Sir Charles picked up the point of rewilding people and felt that this arises from inspirational things in the landscape – think beyond the box. What about bison?

Focusing on the Forest, it was suggested that the grazed areas of the forest do not enjoy the abundance of wildlife described at Knepp and the questioner asked what impact animal density has on this. Sir Charles felt that it was not necessary to worry about it. This is just a moment in time, and livestock numbers wax and wane over long periods. Diana Westerhoff endorsed this and added that even short-grazed turf may be home to species missing from other habitats. The woodlands are rich in insects like moths and in bats but we just don’t often see them.

Sir Charles was asked to explain the term ‘pop-up Knepps’ mentioned in his talk. He pointed out that farms and estates pass down the generations and landowners may not wish to tie the land forever to specific conservation designations like SSSIs. So a commitment to plan for 10 or 20 years would enable people to choose to return to conventional farming in the future. The Knepp estate has footpaths crossing it and Sir Charles was asked how he manages the public. He stated that longhorn cattle were useful in deterring people from straying from paths, but that dog-walkers were a problem for ground-nesting birds.  He suggested that good paths, routes, maps and signs were all needed.

Thinking again of the Forest, two questions raised the effect of grazing levels on the possible decline in wildlife and growth of new trees, issues welcomed by the audience with applause. Diana Westerhoff noted that studies on the impact of grazing on ground-nesting birds showed that it was hard to separate it from other factors like deer numbers, dog-walking, predators and climate change. But she commented that it was hard to control over-grazing. Tree regeneration is a long-term business and the Forest includes pasture woodland rather than dense canopy woodland.

At this point John Ward, Chairman of the Friends of the New Forest, said that he did not feel comfortable at being told we don’t have enough information so cannot take action, and asked the panel whether, nonetheless, it might be possible to divide the Forest into areas and exclude recreational access to part of it in order to test rewilding. Sir Charles responded positively, saying that the Forest is large enough to do this. Joking, he even suggested bringing back wolves to control the deer! But he felt that it was possible to amend stock intensity and deer density. He also pointed out the value of thorn bushes which protect young trees, quoting an ancient forestry saying: ‘the thorn is the mother of the oak’. An audience member added that a 400-year old oak only needs one seedling produced during its lifetime to replace itself.

The next question raised the issue of recreational pressure. Debbie Tann agreed that for the New Forest this is the greatest current problem. The words ‘National Park’ mislead the public, and some rewilding might make the nature and purpose of the Forest clearer. We need to be braver, for example in challenging plans for housing development, and local authorities should be providing alternative green space for recreation outside the Forest.

Finally Peter Roberts, previous Chairman of the Friends of the New Forest, enquired what would be the smallest area which could engage in rewilding, with the large estates around the Forest and the Forestry Commission in mind. Sir Charles gave examples of the area which a pig needs per week, because scale matters. The smaller the area, the more management you have to do. The bigger you get, the more you can sit back and leave it alone.

At the end of a stimulating and wide-ranging discussion, Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre thanked Sir Charles for his talk and admired his courage in rewilding Knepp, also thanking Debbie Tann and Diana Westerhoff for their contribution and finally urging the audience to join the Friends of the New Forest to support its fight for the Forest’s sustainable future.

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Recreation Management: Adjusted Expectations

Our Strategic (or perhaps less than) Approach to the RMS Review

We welcomed the review of the National Park’s Recreation Management Strategy, the core policy document whose difficult birth plagued the early years of the Park. Little of its 60 actions, including straightforward surveys and a five year review had been achieved. It is to the credit of the Authority officers that they mooted this review, which was accepted unenthusiastically at the March 2017 meeting by the Authority membership in the manner of a recalcitrant child taking medicine.

This review is an opportunity to raise the profile of Recreation Management in the Forest, to revisit the extensively publicly consulted upon 2010 Strategy, to create a more focused Plan featuring fully specified high-priority projects to address the ageing infrastructure, education and large increases of use resulting from growth of development on our borders.

Since then the red flags have gone up with the confusing, unrepresentative survey, its poor interpretation, and the drive this year to engage in a similarly, perhaps even more empty and simplistic exercise in public engagement. (for more about our concerns with the surveys read here)

We have at every step of the way offered the NPA constructive criticisms of both the content and method of this review.

When questioned directly as to how the review in any way improves on the existing Strategy, NPA Officers and Members have given certain responses (which I’ve taken few liberties in paraphrasing):

  • All is well because the surveys and proposals have been signed off by the partner organizations (gnomically tautological, often with flourish pointing to their logos).

  • The “actions” of the original strategy weren’t “owned” by the relevant organizations, which need to deliver the objectives.

  • This Strategy will call for the partners and others to volunteer initiatives to deliver actions and objectives which will deliver Recreation Management.

All the partner organizations were part of the extensive consultation that produced the existing strategy, to suggest that they never really signed up to those objectives is a ripe nonsense. The objectives of the existing Strategy are “owned” by definition by the National Park which includes that Strategy as one of its core documents. Whilst it’s true that the Park Authority has limited direct responsibilities and powers, it’s incumbent on them to use their influence on those organizations that do, and there is a legal obligation for those bodies to listen and act accordingly.

Case in point: the Natural England SAC management Plan 2000 prescribed that campsites in A&O woodlands be shut down with their camping provision perhaps moved elsewhere. The FC are under an obligation to make this happen. The National Park should be monitoring camping provision for the whole of the Forest, including the licensing of “pop-up” campsites which may very well be providing that alternative provision organically. The National Park, obligated by their purpose to conserve, should encourage the FC to fulfill the SAC management plan, and use its leadership and influence to help smooth the way for this action.

This is not merely a case in point. It is an Action pledged under the existing 2010 Strategy. Oddly it seems to have been dropped from the new version. Whilst all this should happen because of obligations outside the purview of the Strategy, it is entirely within to help chivvy it along.

There might be the view that the Friends of the New Forest / NFA should play a longer game, presume that the vague well-meaning mishmash will eventually garner useful concrete proposals fully supported by the partner organizations, and that these will also magically cover the statutory obligations given little or no space in the proposals. Given the lack of follow through on the 2010 plan, and the failure of the Park Authority, both officers and members to take on board our criticisms of this version of the strategy over the last year, we lack confidence in their ability to steer this course. We would fail our duty as a critical friend of the Park if we merely patted them on the back for their effort and patronised them with a “bless!” and perhaps a gold stick-on star.

This may risk a chilly relationship between us as the National Park Society for the New Forest, but they are public servants, they are indulging our resources and they should expect criticism for below par output. As little we’ve said has deterred them so far, we can at least demand from them a swift roster of actual plans following on from this survey process which would quell our concerns, and attract our praise, which will be equally vocal and public should they hit the mark. Otherwise we’ll continue to watch as they tread water and ignore all the life preservers we helpfully lob in their direction, mindful that this delays useful and needed action to the detriment of the Forest.

We still have faith in the potential of the National Park to deliver a coherent plan which we could support, and what we have before us contains many of the right ideas amongst the blather. The Authority needs to show a willingness to propose specific solutions which could include difficult choices which they would defend publicly. We await their leadership.

This is part of our ongoing coverage of the National Park Authority’s review of the Recreation Management Strategy which we ultimately support, but have grave disappointments in the conduct and current proposals to date.
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A Year In The New Forest — telly doc review

It may be difficult to quantify why Channel 4’s new documentary series A Year In The Forest is such a uniquely rich and well observed celebration of what makes our Forest so special.  Sure, there’s abundant beautiful photography, but we should expect this in a 7 pm Saturday flagship documentary slot.  The filmmakers took their time with this, literally a year and change, and have produced an episode per season of that year for a set of four.

The filmmakers have avoided pitfalls of previous efforts, no celebrity CNP figureheads up in hot air balloons, no gross oversimplifications, no — as certain BBC magazine programmes past have done — touting of inappropriate recreation activities (there was some regrettable habitat disturbance intentionally running through bogs for some mucky version of orienteering).

They’ve selected a cast of knowledgeable local characters, who they seemingly allow to speak for themselves, variously representing commoning and conservation.  A decent proportion of those “followed” are members of the Friends of the New Forest / NFA, including two members of our council; this is less a declaration of interest from this reviewer, more an appreciation that they’ve chosen people who know what they’re on about.  (We should probably mention much of the glorious wildlife is captured on film by our friend Dr. Manuel Hinge.)

Its success may lie partially in what they leave out.  Last names, for starters, all the “leads” in focus are only referred to by their first names, this has the effect of making the discussions more intimate and personal.  A last name is dropped in a description of a family heritage going back to 1680, you may spot a familiar commoning name on an erstwhile bucket, and a side character local mycologist is anonymised when joining “Richard” for a fungi ID hunt (her name passed in conversation).  In focusing on individuals they’ve also skirted or left out larger group activities, hard to imagine a doc on Autumn in the Forest without a chunk about the Drift or Beaulieu Rd Pony Sales (will Winter include the Point-to-Point?).

There’s also a lack of official talking heads from the statutory organizations, the National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission (The Forester featured is not even from the FC, but from the excellent Pondhead Conservation Trust which manages their inclosure sympathetically under lease from the FC), or even the Verderers.  We’re not being lectured at, we’re being spoken to.

This works well in conveying the love and care for the Forest from all those involved, but excludes any prescriptive suggestions on how to protect it.  An incident of a dog chasing deer, resulting in a drastic change to mating patterns, amongst other things, passes without any comment on the behaviour of the dog owner.  The foray for autumn fungi is not concluded with any message to not pick (which I’m certain will have irked at least one participant).  As a campaigning organization, we know it’s often difficult to express precautionary principles without falling the wrong side of hectoring, but these few moments begged a slight nudge at least, although this may have not fit with the welcoming tone the narrative affects.

At the same time they don’t utterly shy away from hard realities, TB tests are endured and acclimatizing young stock to coming Winter requires a firm stance that may not sit well with those ready to misunderstand animal welfare.

Based only on the first quarter, a sterling effort.  Although the slight niggle of missed opportunities to guide viewers from respect towards protection of the Forest; perhaps a “if you’ve been effected by issues in tonight’s programme” proviso, with hints on how to help, which might include supporting local conservation landowners (Wildlife Trust, National Trust and recently in place RSPB), volunteering for on the ground conservation, or even joining the Friends of the New Forest, at a stretch…

A Year In The New Forest is produced by Blast! Films for Channel 4 and airs on Channel 4 on Saturdays starting 28th July at 7pm, and available on All 4 Catch-up Apps for 30 days each.

 

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NFNPA Public Questions: Recreation Management Strategy

We continue to welcome the opportunity presented by the review of the RMS, but are underwhelmed by the process and proposals. I wouldn’t belabour the deficiencies of last year’s online survey with 1500 unverified respondents[1], but for the proposal that the exercise be repeated, with the “Draft Actions” under consideration.

I must admit I was initially optimistic when these were previewed, there are sound ideas at heart, but made anodyne, presented with so little detail, as to be vague and inoffensive; anyone could read into them goals we’d like to see achieved. These are “more plans to make plans”, with no palpable improvement, apart from brevity, on the previous RMS. Some essential actions, predicated by legal obligations to designated habitat, have been discarded. All the education actions focus on promoting special qualities[2], not on shifting emphasis to protection.

The Strategy needs to include a set of concrete proposals, a non-exhaustive list could include:

  • Establish a Research Station for the Forest – this could provide an evidentiary base for spatial strategy.
  • Habitat Mitigation Framework for the Forest – reliance on Thames Basin Heaths mitigation severely undervalues our more richly featured at-risk habitats, and is not fit for purpose.
  • Audit of parking and camping provisions[3]
  • Strategic Regional Development Forum – working to lower housing targets within and on the borders of the Park to reduce pressure.
  • Bring temporary campsites under a regimen of consistent standards and controls.
  • Close Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech [4]
  • Create a “Park Ranger” role that includes enforcement.

One set of actions that nearly rises to the level of a plan, managing recreation infrastructure[5], is lumbered with an unrealistic year limit to decide future zoning and control. Rush decisions using whatever data is to hand or can be cobbled together, rather than developing a spatial strategy, with agreed criteria, tied to well grounded evidence, would lead to an infrastructure just as damagingly arbitrary as that which we’ve inherited.

It’s well and good to have a set of aspirations, but without a clear set of projects to achieve the least of them, reviewing our aspirations is relegated to a make-work delay in taking action. I am confident that you could hammer out useful, practical proposals, that would fulfil the Statutory Purposes of the Park, and legal obligations to designated habitats, commoning, and the working Forest. Please do not let a dumbed-down internet poll be the final word on this important document.

[1] half the population of Lyndhurst.

[2] In ways that are already being done. This strategy should show how we’ll do things differently to be effective.

[3] Five year priority 5.6.3 of RMS 2010

[4] The obligation under the 2001 SAC Management plan to relocate three FC Campsites (Five year priority 6.4.2 of RMS 2010) should not be ignored; it is even possible that the rash of 28 day license pop-up campsites has effectively absorbed an equal provision already.

[5] Objective 4

This Statement was read out to the 15 June 2018 Meeting of the National Park Authority. The version of the document distributed to the members included more detailed versions of the non-exhaustive list of project proposals which would be appropriate for inclusion in a Recreation Management Strategy with any depth and utility. A revised and updated version of those proposals has been submitted as part of our response to this year’s survey, and may be viewed *here* (Coming soon.)
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England Coast Path: What can I do about it?

We suggest some representations you might wish to make.  And discuss how the format of the consultation is restrictive.

In the run up to the end of the consultation on the Highcliffe-Calshot stretch, we’ve put together a series of articles about the England Coast Path.   Now with precious time to spare, you may want to respond to the consultation. (if you want to refresh your memory on everything we’ve posted so far on the subject (including this article))
http://newforestassociation.org/tag/england-coast-path/

Here’s where you can find all the proposal documents including the forms for responses:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/england-coast-path-from-highcliffe-to-calshot-comment-on-proposals

First, let’s hunker down on what hoops Natural England have set for us to jump through.  There are two types of response you may make, “Objections” and “Representations”, both with different forms to fill out.  We have been told that if you do not use the forms for your response, your response may by discretion be ignored (and some have informally been advised that they would be ignored).  In some instances you may do both.

Only owners/tenants/occupiers of land directly effected by the route may make “objections”, but these are limited to specific grounds:

  1. The position of any part of the proposed route shown on the map(s)
  2. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) that the route should “roll back” in response to erosion or other forms of coastal change, or the nature of our proposal
  3. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) an alternative route (in addition to the ordinary route), or the position of the alternative route or any part of it.
  4. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) that the landward boundary of the coastal margin should coincide with a physical feature such as a fence or wall, or the nature of our proposal
  5. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) an access exclusion or restriction, or the nature of our proposal
  6. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) to extend the route to any point between the open coast and the first public foot crossing point on a river.

“Representations” are not limited in subject matter / grounds, and owners/tenants/occupiers may make these as well (and are invited on the forms to identify themselves).  Anyone else may also make representations as individuals or group representatives.  In both types, multiple forms would have to be submitted if commenting on non-contiguous portions of the route.  Each form must identify a single “land parcel” or several adjoining ones.  Again, you may choose to depart from guidance, but run the risk of being ignored.

1 & 2. For our purposes here you’ll need to look through Chapters 3, 4 or 5 of the proposals.  These 3 Chapters alone propose 114 discrete sections of the route from Lymington Bridge (East) to Calshot (and that’s excluding possible Alternate Routes, which we have little to worry about as in this instance there’s only two bits along public highway from Inchmery Lane to Lepe Road, and Alternate Routes do not create additional Coastal Margin).  54 of those sections aren’t on current established Rights of Way, 21 of these sections classified as “Other existing walked” 33 sections are new “not an existing walked route”.  You can choose any of these for comment, I’d suggest an area you know well, or if you don’t know, go for one of the new ROW as these may be the most problematic.

For your additional research, I suggest looking at the Government’s Magic Map page http://magic.defra.gov.uk/MagicMap.aspx.  This lets you zoom into the area where your route sections are, you can turn off useful layers (layer menu is on the top left of the map ) under Designations / Sites of Special Scientific Interest (England) / Special Areas of Conservation (England) / Special Protection Areas (England) etc, also with useful Marine designations).  This is somewhat necessary as the consultation maps do not provide this information in any useful context or detail (there’s one map in the Overview which does not show the route and how it or Coastal Margin interact with the habitat and other designations).

3. Those listed in Schedule 1 Coastal Access reports, those with sport shooting rights and the following organizations: BASC; British Mountaineering Council; Country Land and Business Association; NFU; Open Spaces Society; Ramblers ; RSPB have to identify themselves (as if they were marked! — do you suppose they get a knock on the door asking how they were recruited to these shady organizations?).

4. “relevant interest” means that you are a legal owner / tenant / occupier of the land in question (i.e. you would also be able to make an “Objection”)

5. Here’s the real meat of the Representation, what ever concerns you about the report in such a way as to show that it “fails to strike a fair balance” between the provision of Coastal Access Duty and personal, statutory, local or National Interests.  National interests would include honouring the protections to habitat in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and other agreements and law that specify relevant habitat designations.  Either think of your own concerns that fit the bill, look through our other articles for extensive critique, and/or use almost any of the points below which sadly will apply to much of the route.

  • The Sensitive Features Appraisal fails to carry out a full Habitats Regulation Assessment to assess impact of this section of the route, route facing mitigation measures may not be presumed to work, and in the context of Coastal Margin which may allow incursion through the Margin from other directions, the proposed mitigation is flimsy.
  • Presumption that this route has no significant impact has not been proven in the absence of the full Habitats Regulation Assessment, or the possibly illegal inclusion of the proposed mitigation at the screening stage.
  • Because of the poor presentation on the maps provided it is difficult to judge the relationship between the route, potential Coastal Margin, excepted land and exclusions.
  • The Ordnance Survey’s practice of showing all potential Coastal Margin as access land will mislead many off this route section onto protected habitats and dangerous salt marshes.
  • Dogs should be on leads for all sections adjacent or through protected habitats, grazing or back-up land for livestock.
  • Using the least restrictive option principle as a standard for the Sensitive Features Appraisal is wholly inappropriate in the context of a National Park.
    • The least restrictive option principle has no basis whatsoever in the Legislation,
    • whereas within a National Park, the Sandford principle which favours conservation over recreation where they may not be reconciled is enshrined in the 1949 Act and subsequent Acts.

6 & 7. Self Explanatory, note because you are expected to submit separate forms for each contiguous stretch you criticise, you may have made other representations about the same report.  8. Again, harking back to #4. If you are and owner/tenant/occupier, have you also made out an “objection” form for between 1 and 6 statutorily granted reasons.

9 & 10. Tell them who you are, and send it in.  At this late date, you’ll want to use the email. (southcoastalaccess@naturalengland.org.uk)

Now I think it’s worth noting, if you haven’t already caught on, but the format of this consultation is onerous.  Some of the questions on the forms themselves require specialist knowledge, or a visit to a separate document that explains some, but not all of the questions.  You are told to submit multiple forms for multiple sections.

By virtue of the fact that the forms are geared around references to sections of the route, there is no way to identify portions of the Coastal Margin you may wish to comment on,  the seaward portion of the Margin is never explicitly delineated on the maps, although there is a useless box, often sitting on the map obscuring features that explains the Margin is the whole seaward side but for Excepted Land and Exclusions, and the maps do not depict these either for reference.  The maps do not show the boundaries of legally protected designated habitats, so it is not easy to judge whether the section has an impact.  There is no direct way to reference any of the supporting documents.  There’s much wrong with the Sensitive Features Appraisal itself, the forms don’t really offer you a way to make those comments.

So, if you’ve any spare time between now and Midnight Wednesday 8th of May 2018.  Download and fill out the form and email it in.  Even if you miss the deadline, keep sending them in with the complaint that an extension to the consultation should have been granted as Natural England have produced a report of much greater size and complexity than any to date, with unhelpful maps to judge the proposals by, and they took more than an extra year to do it : they should be obligated to produce useable maps and allow another four weeks.

Finally, while you’re at it, go to the link to this article on our Facebook page and just leave the reference to the section on which you commented.  Thanks for your help!

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England Coast Path: Not A Whitewash (Magenta, Actually)


The Ordnance Survey’s Rubberstamping of a Bad Idea

In the early days of the England Coast Path project, the Ordnance Survey were tasked with the depicting the ECP as a new National Trail, and the newly established Coastal Margin, the spreading room designated with the route, as access land.  Natural England and the Ordnance Survey met before taking proposals forward, first with the MOD (Defence Estates), then with an invited “National Stakeholder Group”  consisting of NFU, RSPB, CLA, National Trust, British Mountaineering Council, BASC, Ramblers, Disabled Ramblers, Stephen Jenkinson (a consultant on managing dogwalker visitors), Hampshire County Council, Open Spaces Society, English Heritage, Environment Agency,  and the Rural Payments Agency.

The stakeholder group met once through a “Webinar” on 15th January 2014, with subsequent emails and documents, leading to sign off around March 2014.  Only one purely nature conservation based group was represented (RSPB). No representatives from National Parks interests were involved.  It is unclear whether any formal discussion was held to adopt the chosen format, or whether it was presented as a fait accompli by the OS and NE to the stakeholders (the documentation available suggests but does not confirm the latter).

The Ordnance Survey’s depiction decided was that the route line would be edged on the seaward side by magenta semi-circles, and all potential coastal margin as a 10% magenta shading, similar to the 10% yellow shading adopted for access land created by the CRoW Act 2000.  Areas that are not access land under the scheme, but which fall within the Coastal Margin, from the seaward side of the route to the water, will be shown under the magenta wash as though they were access land.  That means that excepted land under Schedule 1 of CRoW Act 2000, and exclusions directed by Natural England under Section 25 Health and Safety or Section 26 Habitat Conservation of CRoW will be shown as access land, although they legally are not.

There were no suggestions that Exclusions have any depiction (short of not applying the Magenta wash). There were no mention of Section 26 habitat exclusions. Based solely on a comment from the National Trust[*], the legend proviso’s language had the phrase “fragile habitats” removed as it might deter people from entering fragile habitats which weren’t off limits. The RSPB representative commented “I see little point in NE applying that procedure [Exclusion Directives under Section 25a], only then to allow OS to map it as access land.” The RSPB also pointed out that there may be future court cases S29 Reckless disturbance, bye-laws etc, where defendants may cite maps as mitigation when these areas have been depicted as access land.  These concerns were palpably sidelined, with claims that accurate depiction would be too difficult, or that the cookie cutter approach would be visually confusing.

At the point that this decision was made only 6 stretches of the England Coast Path had been Published and 3 Approved. The first four of these have no Section 25a or Section 26 directions. The then only recently published (Oct 2013), yet to be approved, stretches had total of 4 S25a, and 5 S26 directions proposed. Brean Down to Minehead has 2 of the S25a, but no maps of these exclusions, described solely in text. Folkestone to Ramsgate is the first report to include maps depicting the exclusions and the first to have a separate Conservation Assessment document.  As these were only just published concurrent to the meeting with the MOD, it is unlikely that either of these figured in the discussion at all (especially as, despite the latter’s 5 Section 26 directions, Section 26 Habitat Exclusions were not mentioned in the Stakeholder discussions).

Above right shows Coast Path as blue line, with the Coastal Margin in Magenta wash. The numbered excluded areas shown to the left are NOT depicted. Users of the OS maps would easily be led astray into all 7 excluded areas.

In the absence of palpably useful and non-theoretical examples, none of those involved in the group decision had any materially significant basis to make this judgement. The decision was made without regard to National Park Purposes and Sandford. Subsequent stretch reports have required larger areas of exclusion. Subsequent policy, including the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan have promised higher levels of protection for designated and undesignated habitats. This decision must be revisited in the light of these, including representatives of relevant National Parks (Seven Stretches are in or directly adjacent to Six National Parks [†]), and other habitat conservation organizations and land managers (including the Forestry Commission who with National Parks may be nominated as “relevant authorities” for portions of the route).

Without differentiating or delineating the exclusions and excepted land, users will be mislead many into protected areas. There are weak provisos that the OS will claim covers the depiction issue (see figure). These do not even mention exclusions for habitat protection[*]. There is no guarantee that this language will even be included on all relevant OS maps, nor that they will be featured at any remarkable scale for legibility. These provisos may not be visible at all where OS data is used for mapping apps on smart devices for either the OS’s own apps or third party apps which license the OS data.

Although Natural England will protest that the OS depiction is outside their remit (even as the choices given to the stakeholder group were arguably limited by OS and NE staff). NE still have the obligation to protect the coastal habitats that may be trespassed upon as a consequence of the depiction issue. Excluded areas should be the majority of the margin along our coast[‡], and should either be shown accurately, or not shown as access land at all.


[*] FOI requested info on the discussion and subsequent emails revealed that “fragile habitats” had been in an earlier draft of the legend provisos “but _[National Trust Rep]_ made the point in discussion that it was best not said, because many other areas within the margin that would remain subject to rights were nonetheless fragile habitats to some extent too – for example dunes and rough grassland – so the phrase could mislead people.”

[†] National Park included or adjacent stretches of the England Coast Path:
25 September 2015 both Hopton-on-Sea to Sea Palling (adjacent to the Broads) and Whitehaven to Silecroft (Lake District) were Approved, but only the first is fully open, the other pending new river crossings for the Irt and the Esk and approval of nearby sections. Filey Brigg to Newport Bridge (North York Moors) was approved 15th Jan 2016 and is fully open. Minehead to Combe Martin (Exmoor) closed consultation 15th Aug 2017, approval pending. Highcliffe-Calshot (New Forest) will currently have consultation closing 9th May 2018, should requests to extend go unanswered. Silecroft to Silverdale (Lake District) and Shoreham-by-Sea to Eastbourne (South Downs) are still having their proposals developed (currently mooted 2018).]

[‡] A conservative estimate of the current proposal would have 75% of the proposed Coastal Margin fall under no access categories of either CROW Act 2000 Excepted Land or NE designated Exclusions under Sections 25 or 26 of CROW.

The FOI request source for the description of the process may be examined on the Ordnance Survey site:
https://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/about/governance/foi/questions/2017/031.html

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England Coast Path: Out of Order

Coastal Margin, One of the worst features of the Coast Path framework was not consulted on publicly.  It’s not even defined in the Act itself.

As though some inherent, received wisdom, Natural England continually refers to “Coastal Margin” as automatically including the entire seaward side of the route of the England Coast Path.  But on what basis?  Questioning this led me a merry chase through legislation, documentation, obscure reaches of Google queries, and a high tolerance for repetition of the term “Coastal Margin” (which you may require to read further).

The first problem was trying to find a definition of the term “Coastal Margin” in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  The first time it is mentioned, it is not referred to with that distinct term, the first section of Part 9 Coastal Access

296 The coastal access duty
(1) Natural England and the Secretary of State must exercise the relevant functions in order to secure the following objectives.
(2) The first objective is that there is a route for the whole of the English coast which—

a) consists of one or more long-distance routes along which the public are enabled to make recreational journeys on foot or by ferry, and
(b) (except to the extent that it is completed by ferry) passes over land which is accessible to the public.

(3) The second objective is that, in association with that route (“the English coastal route”), a margin of land along the length of the English coast is accessible to the public for the purposes of its enjoyment by them in conjunction with that route or otherwise, except to the extent that the margin of land is relevant excepted land.
[….}

Here it only refers to the context of it as an objective of “Coastal Access Duty” and states the purpose of “a margin” for public enjoyment in conjunction with the route.  The act then bandies the term “Coastal Margin” about quite a bit (55 times), but mostly the references are about how to treat and what you can do with Coastal Margin.   You can as a landowner dedicate land as Coastal Margin, if it already adjoins a Coastal Margin.   When Coastal Margin access rights come into effect (only once the route stretch is fully implemented).  That Natural England may align a landward portion of Coastal Margin with a physical feature. You’ll be hard pressed to find a definition, but from context in section 296 you may glean that Coastal Margin is related to the route, and elsewhere that it may have landward and seaward sides.

Finally the search brings you to what looks like Section “55D Coastal margin” but this in turn is a shell game, 1) the section goes on to describe how Coastal Margin may be treated within the report prepared under Section 51, 2) the intrepid reader may already be wondering ‘weren’t we just in Section 296?  have we gone back in time?‘ in a way, we have, we’re actually in Section 302 Long Distance Routes which does two things, both insertions into the 1949 Act which means the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, into which Sections 55A-J are dropped betwixt that Act’s Sections 55 and 56, and then Schedule 19 of 2009 is transported to Schedule 1 of 1949 (all without recourse to TARDIS).

Then, the to be inserted, 55J comes along, “Interpretation“, all you legislation junkies know this is where the terms get defined.  So here we finally have:

“coastal margin” has the same meaning as in Part 1 of the CROW Act

Of course, all you Hansard habitués know that this refers to the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (c. 37) (aka CRoW 2000), and like me, you’ve a rolled up copy of the original either under your pillow, or propping up that short table leg.  If you look there, you won’t even find the word “margin”.

Maybe we’re going about this from the wrong direction, we’re trying to find the source of a definition that tells us that the coastal margin is the entire seaward side of the path.  CRoW doesn’t have the word seaward in it either.  The 2009 act  mentions “seaward” 31 times, it’s used throughout relating to various definitions of limits of territorial waters.  In Part 9 Coastal Access the term in used for stipulations within Section 301 River Estuaries such as “relevant upstream waters” is partially defined as “the waters from the seaward limit of the estuarial waters of the river upstream to the first public foot crossing”.  “Seaward” is only used in conjunction with “Coastal Margin” when discussing the notion that an alternative route may have the default spread of 2 metres both landward and seaward, with discretionary additions of physical features on the landward side.  Aren’t you glad you asked?

So how is it possible for “Coastal Margin” to have meaning in the CROW Act in which it seemingly doesn’t appear?  Well you may as well shred that copy under your pillow or table leg, resign yourself to sleepless nights or a shaky table.  Even if you’ve downloaded the latest .pdf of the 2000 Act, all you’ll find is only this in Part I – Access to the countryside / Chapter I – Right of access:

3 Power to Extend to coastal access
[…]
(3) In this section “coastal land” means—

a) the foreshore, and
(b) land adjacent to the foreshore (including in particular any cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which is adjacent to the foreshore).

So this still doesn’t answer the question, although we will return to this “coastal land” concept almost immediately.  After The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, finishes tinkering with the 1949 Act it also amends the CRoW Act 2000, inserting this next section which finally defines Coastal Margin:

3A Power to extend to coastal land etc: England
(1) The Secretary of State may by order specify the descriptions of land in England which are coastal margin for the purposes of this Part.
[…]

Oh, it didn’t, but it finally mentions “coastal margin” in a prescriptive manner and tells you that the Secretary of State may specify the description by order.  It’s really the legislation’s way of saying “put a pin in it.”  This means the definition of coastal margin in use was never consulted upon publicly leading to the legislation.

The amendment made by the 2009 Act only appears in the “live” version of the Act on the legislation website, but not in any printed or downloaded versions (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/37/part/I/chapter/I).  So the definition isn’t in any of these Acts, the “pin” saying they’ll get back to us on that one is.  It is then created by a subsequent statutory instrument, the “order”.

That order “The Access to the Countryside (Coastal Margin) (England) Order 2010 No. 558” was discussed by the Delegated Legislation Committee by 17 MPs on 23 February 2010 for twenty minutes, and was discussed at unspecified length by the Lords Grand Committee on 9 February 2010 during a 3 hour meeting which included five other items of legislation. Here, at long last is the definition from the Order:

Descriptions of coastal margin
3.—(1) Land in England is coastal margin for the purposes of Part 1 of the CROW Act (access to the countryside) if it falls within one or more of the following descriptions.
(2) The first description of land is—

(a) land over which the line of an approved section of the English coastal route passes,
(b) land which is adjacent to and within 2 metres either side of that line, and
(c) land which is seaward of the line of an approved section of the English coastal route and lies between land within sub-paragraph (b) in relation to that approved section and the seaward extremity of the foreshore, if the land within sub-paragraphs (a) to (c), taken as a whole, is coastal land.

….
[other descriptions:
(3) including selective landward features
(4) alternative routes that revert to CROW 2 metres either side without any additional spread
(5) temporary routes repeating alternative routes, but with landowner agreement as specified in 1949 Act)]

In suggesting that Coastal Margin automatically includes everything on the seaward side, unless it is in the excepted category or directed by Natural England exclusions, Natural England have been overly inclusive in their interpretation,

  • the Order has no explicit scenario to reflect what to do with the coastal margin should the “coastal land” the foreshore etc., be excluded for habitat or safety reasons, it should not follow that the margin leading up to excluded areas should be included.
  • The definition states that coastal margin exists “if the land in a) the route b) the 2 metre spreading room c) seaward to the seaward extremity of the foreshore (mean low tide), TAKEN AS A WHOLE, is coastal land. (recall CRoW Act definition of “coastal land” is just the foreshore and adjacent features such as cliffs or beaches) This either means:
    • if the margin is not coastal land or coastal in character it isn’t automatically included OR
    • if exclusions are indicated then it can’t be “taken as a whole” and therefore not automatically included
  • this becomes even murkier where the path must travel away from the coast up an estuary to the first foot crossing, particularly one so protected as the Beaulieu –
    • Natural England have the option to terminate the path either side of an estuary, but avoid this to keep the route contiguous and not create demands for honey pot infrastructure and the terminal points.
    • If you look at the inland habitats woodland etc that are included in coastal margin, woodland etc, despite the foreshore of the entire estuary being excluded under S25a Salt Marsh and Flats, the absurdity becomes more apparent.

Thank you to all of you who made it this far.  I should probably ask if you know which shell the pea is under, or if you followed the lady.  We are left with two problems, the impenetrability of the act helped hide a vital detail until after it was passed, and the interpretation of this detail is open to question.

At the start of this piece I told you that the precise definition hadn’t been consulted on publicly, but there was private discussion of the more general notion of some sort of Coastal Margin, as an equivalent to spreading room, often referred to as the “Right to Roam”, from the CRoW Act 2000.  We’ll examine some of that discussion, and how the definition of the Coastal Margin in use is undermining the path in our next article:

Margin of Error : When is something inland somehow part of the Coast? (coming soon)

Also coming soon, more on how estuaries fare when Natural England gets to decide that they’re the sea.

Up An Estuary, Without a Paddle : No one really knows what to do about an Estuary. (coming soon)

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England Coast Path: What you need to know

The consultation on the Highcliffe to Calshot stretch of the England Coast Path closes on Wednesday 9th May.  We’ve been discussing the possible negative impacts of the proposed route since 2016 when it was mooted that this Consultation would happen in March 2017.  We’ve shared some aspects here through presentments to the Verderers, statements to the National Park Authority, and our letter to the Access Forum.  However, it’s worth putting the project into perspective, what it is and why we’re concerned.  We’ll start with this overview of the bare basics.

Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009

The Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 mandated the The England Coast Path (ECP).  The Act’s other aims created a new Marine Management Organisation, made alterations to marine licensing and fisheries management, and provided the set up for marine conservation zones.  In addition to the establishment of an English coastal walking route, it also included rights of access to land near the English coast.

So far, so benign.  There are existing Coastal Routes, the South West Coast Path, Norfolk Coast Path, Wales, etc. and here the Solent Way.  To a certain extent it hardly seems necessary.  The key problem comes from the creation of requirement known as “Coastal Access Duty”,  including not just providing the route, but also the creation of new access land called “Coastal Margin”.  Coastal Margin was left undefined in the 2009 legislation, but since has come to be broadly defined as the entire seaward side of the route (with certain exceptions, and possible discretionary landward additions).  That definition encourages land owners to allow the path placed as close to the coast as is practical.

This becomes problematic as our coast includes a nearly uninterrupted series of highly designated and protected habitats of international importance alongside which the route will necessarily skew inland.  Sending the route inland to avoid habitat, has the simultaneous effect of designating that habitat, seaward of the route, as access land, which defeats the purpose of avoidance.  Some land, such as arable, private buildings and their curtilage, are considered “Excepted Land”, and Natural England have the discretion of creating “directions to Exclude” on the basis of habitat or public safety, together these are the slim protections from Coastal Margin access.

Increased use and disturbance

Creation new non-historically based Rights of Way and joining up of existing routes, increasing their use will impact on tranquility and habitat disturbance.  There is funding for path upgrades, signs and rudimentary barriers, but no funding for parking, other infrastructure, or any other mitigation measures (as a developer creating the same access would be required to provide).  Some stretches, near or on small country lanes in the most remote parts of our coast would exacerbate the verge parking problem.

Signs explaining exclusions will not make up for the Ordnance Survey’s decision (with the alleged fiat of a “stakeholder group”) to show all potential Coastal Margin as Access Land, disregarding whatever Excepted Land, or Exclusions may be in place.  A conservative estimate of the current proposal would have 75% of our Coastal Margin fall under these prohibitions, but the Ordnance Survey will show them as access anyway, despite their standing as providers of a definitive map.

Sensitive Features

In the current proposal Natural England have not sufficient excluded our designated habitats and have created new Rights of Way adjacent and through SSSI designated land.  They have not made directions for dogs on lead aside or through habitats, or land used for livestock including back-up land vital to commoning.  They have not provided maps that show the vital spatial relationships of the route to protected, vulnerable or excepted land.

The Sensitive Features Assessment for our coast is the largest of the 31 stretches published to date.  At 222 pages it is twice the size of the next largest, and five times larger than the average (excluding itself).  The report is fraught with inaccuracies and errors, including misquotes from some of our ecologists.  Natural England have not performed a full Habitats Regulation Assessment to judge the impacts, they use a get out from their own guidance which allows them to conclude that their own mitigation proposals (signage, willow screens) are sufficient. That self determining logic was just slammed in the European Court in April (the judgement required that full HRA be performed).

The guidance creates a principle, not based in the legislation of “least restrictive option” for conflicts between Coastal Access Duty and other interests, including habitat, favouring recreation, where in a National Park, the Sandford Principle, enshrined in the legislation would indicate the opposite.  The over interpretation of Coastal Access Duty, particularly the Margin, by Natural England shows no regard for the National Park Purposes or Special Qualities.  It also fall far short of subsequent policies, including the Government’s flagship 25 Year Environment Plan.

Conclusion

The particularly large size and sensitivity of the New Forest Coast was clearly not foreseen by those framing the legislation, which is ill suited to application of its subsequent all encompassing Coastal Margin definition.  Natural England have not provided adequate proposal for consultation, including poor mapping, inaccurate and incomplete Assessments. The poor decision by the Ordnance Survey to serve up protected areas as accessible is a gross misrepresentation.  Taken together, and in some cases separately, this will lead to unacceptable damage to habitats.  All the worse, as it should be avoidable, not intentionally planned.

Coming Soon:

We will be fleshing out many of the points made above, for those who may doubt any of our claims, or if you just want to dig deeper to see what should have been a harmless, if unnecessary project, put through the legislative and government grinder to become a fiasco, warning, some of this will illicit anger.  (Links will go live as each article is posted, watch this space and/or our facebook page)

England Coast Path:
What’s At Stake : Our Coastal Habitat, how precious it is, how you might not have known that.
Consultation and Complexity : How is our stretch more difficult?
MisGuidance : Natural England’s Playbook for Coastal Access has problems.  LIVE
Out of Order : One of the worst features of this was not consulted on publicly.  Ever.  LIVE
Margin of Error : When is something inland somehow part of the Coast?
Not A Whitewash (Magenta, Actually) : The Ordnance Survey’s Rubberstamping of a Bad Idea  LIVE
Up An Estuary, Without a Paddle : No one really knows what to do about an Estuary.
Sense and Insensitivity : What happens when Sensitive Features Appraisal doesn’t live up to its title?
Do we need it? : In which we might have to argue with a Rambler (no one wants to do that).
What can I do about it? : We suggest some representations you might wish to make. LIVE

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Presentment April: England Coast Path

England Coast Path proposal shows new Rights of Way on one map (middle right), Habitat Exclusions on another in a different document (top), and both maps do not show the relevant Site of Special Scientific Interest (bottom), a small fraction of which is in the Exclusion.

I’d hoped that my previous presentment on the England Coast Path would be the last, and thank the court yet again for its inclusion in unusual circumstances.

The complexity of the proposal demands a bit more, the longest of the 31 (of 66) published to date, including a Sensitive Features Appraisal running 222 pages, nearly 5 times larger than the average (excluding itself), and twice the size of the next largest (Burnham-on-Crouch to Maldon). The maps Natural England provide are misleading as they do not adequately reflect the key spatial relationships between the path, protected habitats and coastal margin. At a minimum Natural England should provide useable maps for comment, and extend the consultation proportionately to reflect the scale of the proposal. They should also be at pains to perform a complete Habitat Regulation Assessment and resolve the rife inaccuracies in the features appraisal.

As for issues under the Verderer’s remit: fields that may come into or out of management as backup grazing are not excepted land (as it is not arable), but Natural England have not required dogs on leads on the route adjacent or through potential backup land. They have not followed their own guidance from the Coastal Access Scheme [*]:

Guidance 2.4.6 As on other land with access rights under Part 1 of CROW, a person with a dog must keep it on a short lead in the vicinity of livestock. The purpose of this provision is to prevent dogs from approaching livestock.

We hope the Verderers, in their statutory role on behalf of commoning, will request that this is applied in all possible instances. The NFA, for our part, will go further asking that dogs be kept on leads for any portion of the route that is adjacent to protected habitat, grazing which may be used by livestock, or spreading room leading to either habitat or grazing.


[*] The Coastal Access Scheme 2013, page 14 – this guidance document was mandated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 Section 298 The coastal access scheme. The first version of the Scheme (NE268) was approved on 23rd March 2010, under section 298(2) of the 2009 Act. Section 299(2) of the Act required Natural England to complete an initial review of the Scheme within three years, which they did, publishing that result 11th July 2013. However, by that time they had only had three stretches published, and one of those approved.


ADDENDUM:

We have secured an agreement with one of the statutory consultees that we will request that the Ordnance Survey not depict “coastal margin” the spreading room associated with the route at all for our stretch of the coast. As noted previously, the OS policy would be to show the entirety of the area seaward of the route, which is potentially coastal margin, under a “magenta wash”.

A conservative estimate of the proposal shows that at least 75% of the potential margin will fall either under excepted land (arable, buildings and their curtilage, etc) or excluded land designated by Natural England for either Public Safety reasons (S25) or Habitat Protection (S26). This would make the OS default depiction grossly inaccurate.

Consultation Map Issues

The maps provided do not adequately reflect the key spatial relationships between the path, protected habitats and coastal margin, and make it exceedingly difficult to make judgements. There is only one map that depicts the entire route (index map), within each chapter separate maps show sections numbered for comment, no map showing the route for each entire chapter is provided, and only landward spreading room is depicted, no excepted or excluded areas are shown. Maps of exclusions appear in the separate Overview document and don’t show path or even other exclusions that overlap the map area depicted. None of the maps of paths or exclusions show the relevant areas of habitat designation (SSSI, Nature Reserves, SAC, SPA, Areas of Special Protection and Ramsar Wetlands).

ECP with Exclusions, SSSI, SAC
As an example of what would be useful, you’ll find attached my approximate overlay map of the route shown in orange (part of Chapter 3, and all of Chapters 4 and 5 of the proposal, the Orange diamonds showing the chapter divisions). The North Solent Site of Special Scientific Interest is outlined in magenta pink with diagonal hatch, and the Solent & Southampton Water SPA is shown in orange with vertical pinstripe. Areas wholly excluded from Coastal Margin year round under Section 26 Nature Conservation are depicted with a grey overlay. Section 25a Exclusions under Public Safety are not depicted, but to the Salt Marsh and Flats portion of the SSSI along the Beaulieu estuary (but not its terra firma), and similar areas from the mouth of the Lymington river and including Keyhaven (not on the map) and Solent shore. It would also be useful to have maps in each chapter clearly delineating which sections are “new” as opposed to those that are part of existing Rights of Way, Highways etc.

Coastal Margin

Throughout the documentation and guidance Natural England refers to coastal margin including the entire seaward side of the route, however this definition does not exist in the primary legislation, but is created by a subsequent statutory instrument. This means the definition of coastal margin was never consulted upon leading to the legislation. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 Section 3(3) defines “coastal land” as “the foreshore, and land adjacent to the foreshore (including in particular any cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat which is adjacent to the foreshore).” Section 3A(1) (inserted by the 2009 Act) specifies “The Secretary of State may by order specify the descriptions of land in England which are coastal margin for the purposes of this Part.”

That order “The Access to the Countryside (Coastal Margin) (England) Order 2010 No. 558” was discussed by the Delegated Legislation Committee by 17 MPs on 23 February 2010 for twenty minutes, and was discussed at unspecified length by the Lords Grand Committee on 9 February 2010 during a 3 hour meeting which included five other items of legislation. Here’s the definition from the Order:

Descriptions of coastal margin
3.—(1) Land in England is coastal margin for the purposes of Part 1 of the CROW Act (access to the countryside) if it falls within one or more of the following descriptions.
(2) The first description of land is—

(a) land over which the line of an approved section of the English coastal route passes,
(b) land which is adjacent to and within 2 metres either side of that line, and
(c) land which is seaward of the line of an approved section of the English coastal route and lies between land within sub-paragraph (b) in relation to that approved section and the seaward extremity of the foreshore, if the land within sub-paragraphs (a) to (c), taken as a whole, is coastal land.

(3) The second description of land is land which—

(a) is landward of the line of an approved section of the English coastal route,
(b) is—

(i) foreshore, cliff, bank, barrier, dune, beach or flat, or
(ii) land of any other kind, which is treated by section 15(1) as being accessible to the public apart from the CROW Act, and

(c) when taken together with land within the first description in relation to the approved section, is coastal land.

(4) The third description of land is—

(a) land over which the line of an official alternative route which is for the time being in operation passes, and
(b) land which is adjacent to and within 2 metres either side of that line.

(5) The fourth description of land is—

(a) land over which the line of a temporary route passes, and
(b) land which is adjacent to and within 2 metres either side of that line, to the extent that the land is within section 55I(4)(d) of the 1949 Act(b) (land over which the owner has agreed the temporary route may pass).

We believe that Natural England have been overly inclusive in their interpretation, 1) the order has no scenario to reflect what to do with the coastal margin should the “coastal land” the foreshore etc., be excluded for habitat or safety reasons, it should not follow that the margin leading up to excluded areas should be included 2) this becomes even murkier where the path must travel away from the coast up an estuary to the first foot crossing, particularly one so protected as the Beaulieu – Natural England have the option to terminate the path either side, but avoid this to keep the route contiguous and not create demands for honey pot infrastructure and the terminal points.

The Natural England consultation on this stretch runs until 9 May 2018, more information, criticism and analysis may be found on our website newforestassociation.org.

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