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Presentment: New Forest Crown Freehold Properties

Here we welcome a guest post from Dr Tony Hockley, Chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, who gave this Presentment in this month’s Verderers Court.

I would like to begin with a quotation from the only person I have yet encountered with 100% confidence in their own knowledge of this landscape:

“It is not the flowers, not the birds or the deer or the badgers or the butterflies that are in most urgent need of conservation here but the people, the real people of this place.” *

Chris Packham’s wise words are deeply relevant to what I have to say.

It is now more than two years after I succeeded Dr Ferris as Chair of the CDA. Since then nothing has caused me greater and more consistent concern than the challenge of ensuring that there will be affordable land and homes available for the next generation of commoners – in Britain’s least affordable National Park ** .

We are fortunate that we have a keen and active young commoners group in the CDA. Young people who are willing to commit their lives to sustaining the grazing of the New Forest – An incredible vocational commitment, amongst all the other pressures of modern life, upon which everything that is so special about this landscape depends.

In 1991, after a thorough review of the challenges and all options to sustain grazing, the Secretary of State determined that the 65 Crown holdings should be prioritised for those who would commit to New Forest grazing, and that they should be kept truly affordable to them. Since the time of the Illingworth Report these holdings have enabled families with a long history of commoning to maintain the practice, from one generation to the next. We all benefit from their love of the New Forest, their deep knowledge of the livestock and the landscape, and their lifelong commitment to commoning. The Crown holdings have been crucial in this.

In 2016 all that changed – on a whim. The Forestry Commission simply decided that market rents would help fill the coffers: To cash in on property values in Britain’s most expensive and least affordable National Park. In 2017 Sir Desmond Swayne prompted ministers to remind the Commission that such a change of policy would require a formal and inclusive review, and a decision by ministers. Since then we have caught the Commission advertising cottages to the highest bidder, with no mention of grazing, and allocating them to its own managers however it sees fit.

Forestry England is now attempting to entrap this Court in its disgraceful strategy of privatisation by stealth. By selecting just one small part of the Government policy, for one cottage at New Park; this is the involvement of Verderers in tenant selection. Clearly, it hopes that the Court will not notice:

  1. Every other holding has been auctioned or allocated to staff. With no consultation with this Court: Powdermill, Kings Hat, Longbeech, Springfield.
  2. The rent for Little New Park has been fixed at more than 100% of many young commoners’ household income. Not the 15% stipulated by Government. With no consultation with this Court.
  3. An arbitrary qualification has been set, that at least 10 ponies will be turned out from Little New Park’s 1.3 acres of back-up land. With no consultation with this Court
  4. It has separated the barn from the property: Again with no consultation with this Court.
  5. For Little New Park it is demanding income statements from anyone interested, to check they can afford £18,000 a year in rent alone and to deter all those commoners who cannot.

Tenant selection is, therefore, just a trap that the Court would be wise to avoid. This is simply a diversion along the route to effective privatisation of the Crown freeholds; removing them from support for commoning.

This open defiance of government policy for Crown property is shameful from a public body. It not only defies policies that have worked well to sustain Forest grazing over a quarter century. It also defies the Ministers Mandate to the Commission; that it should put the Forest first, ahead of its corporate financial interests. And it defies the 2018 Accord with National Parks England. I am very sorry to say that we no longer have confidence in the Deputy Surveyor to put the Forest first in this regard.

This is a matter of the utmost gravity for the future of commoning in the New Forest. We have tried for three years to work with the Forestry Commission – willing to discuss update the Illingworth policies, but their ears are deaf to the voice of the Forest. They will push on regardless of all due process. Standing idly by whilst Forestry England misappropriates these Crown properties, so that tenancy is a matter of income rather than the good of the Forest, will have lasting consequences for the conservation of this precious landscape. We are very grateful to the Friends of the New Forest for their support.

I have written to the Secretary of State to ask him to put a stop to this disgraceful episode. I would urge the Court and the National Park Authority to do likewise.

Dr Tony Hockley is a Practicing Commoner and Chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association. This has been shared with his express permission, and represents the view of the CDA.

The Friends of the New Forest fully support this position, and have and will continue to stress the importance of all initiatives to maintain affordable housing stock for practicing commoners which is essential to commoning’s continuing service to the Forest.

The CDA Blog post detailing more of the history including the Illingworth report may be read here.

* Chris Packham, Foreword to Clive Chatters “Flowers of the New Forest” WildGuides (2009), p9
** Average property values within the National Park boundary are now 15.9 times average local income.

 

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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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Presentment: Our Objections to Local Plans

New Forest District Council’s Local Plan aims to build 10,500 homes over ten years. In their own summary they admit this is 3 to 4 times their current development rate.  13 of 20 of their proposed strategic development sites are on Green Belt.

This will increase the population in the district and park by roughly 7 times that of Lyndhurst.  One of these “Lyndhurst”s will be an entire new village at Fawley, which will increase the population of the park by 10 %, at the wrong end of the already stressed A326 transport corridor.  This would have a severe recreational impact on the Forest with disturbance to habitat and livestock, and would further urbanize the already saturated Waterside Area, requiring upgrades to the roads that due to that saturation would necessarily encroach onto the highly protected Crown Lands within the National Park, and would increase traffic westward across the Park on roads already animal accident blackspots.

The New Forest National Park Authority and NFDC share a viability study that accepts the developer’s contention that in order to develop 1500 homes at Fawley, they must build 120 as premium homes on a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation in the National Park.  Adjacent to the Power Station site, Tom Tiddler’s Ground is a young coastal grazing marsh that could easily qualify for SSSI status if it were grazed by commoners livestock[1].  [see addendum below for alternatives offered]

The National Park is failing its statutory purposes to conserve and enhance by adopting the poor logic and questionable feasibility behind the NFDC support for the Waterside development, and lack of objection to the scale of NFDC’s 10,500 home plan.  The Park Authority and District Council should be working together to fulfil their legal obligation to protect the Forest, not to undermine that protection for the sake of NFDC’s political objectives.

The Friends of the New Forest / NFA are objecting to the NFNPA Local Plan under examination in November, before your next court, because if accepted as it is, it lays the groundwork for NFDC’s Local Plan which presumes the need and scale of the NFDC objectives, including the destruction of Tom Tiddler’s Ground.

The Government 25 Year Environment Plan promises greater protection for National Parks and both designated and undesignated habitats, and a review for possible expansion of the boundaries of National Parks.  The Park’s own policy should only allow major development under exceptional circumstances.  10,500 homes in the ostensible buffer around the Park, the intentional destruction of Important habitat, and the decimation of Green Belt flies in the face of any presumption that the National Park provides the Forest with any protection.

We ask the Verderers, in their role as a statutory consultee to support our objections, particularly when the NFDC Local Plan is considered.  This is a generational threat to the Forest, and hope that all present in both official and private capacities will join us in this fight.


[1] Indeed previous attempts to do just that failed only due to unreasonable demands from the Power Station management.

ADDENDUM:
The current proposals range from 1500 homes on both the site and onto the SP25 land, or 4000 homes on the site alone (that profitability in the viability study equates 120 homes on the Park’s area with 2500 homes difference, is an example of the nonsense that the viability study purports, and a veiled threat to make an even more unacceptable development).  Even within the Power Station site, the proposals are not limited as they should be to just the former industrial area.  There is also an entirely cracked logic that if these homes must be built to fund the Power Station site development, that they must be built there, and not anywhere else in the country, and they must be built first, but with no guarantee that the industrial site would be developed subsequently.

The current proposals for the Power Station site, which do not demonstrate exceptional circumstances required for major development within the Park, should either be abandoned, scaled down to minor settlement, or mixed use for recreation or perhaps most fittingly for its industrial heritage sustainable power generation in the form of a solar array, all of which should be confined wholly to the industrial area alone, and outside the 400m zone of any future and very likely SPA designation.

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NFA Habitat and Landscape 2017-18

RSPB Franchises Lodge - credit Terry Bagley

Habitat and Landscape Chair, Brian Tarnoff reviews with uncharacteristic brevity the past year on the Forest Design Plan, Recreation Management Strategy and the England Coast Path.  Part of our series of Annual Reports relevant to our AGM on Saturday 21st April 2018.  Updates since original publication, reflecting these ever changing issues, are provided below each section.

Once again I am full of gratitude and amazement at the generous contributions of our committee members this year. This included countless hours volunteered to pour over one of the most vital consultations we’ve seen in some time, and days spent trudging the Forest in all weathers on site visits for works proposed by the Forestry Commission on the open Forest.

The Forest Design Plan

Consultation continued this year. Our ecologists took part in round table discussions on this year’s draft, a palpable improvement over the March 2016 version. The detail, which had concerned us previously, now was much more in line with the commitment from the 1999 Minister’s Mandate (strongly supported by subsequent policy) to restore pasture woodlands, heathlands, valley mires and Ancient and Semi-Natural native woodland, and favour broadleaves over conifer. In these meetings, Forestry Commission staff expressed sound underlying principles that would serve this plan, both in its current form, and going forward, to manage towards these goals.

Our main quibble is that the documentation of the plan does not adequately express those principles. This may seem a small thing, given how close the detail plan is to delivering many of our Association’s goals, but without them in place the plan may not be able to show its logic adequately to stand on its own against Habitats Regulations Assessment, or possible changes in future management of the Forest which could veer away from the promise this plan holds.

After the public consultation on the plan, the Forest Services review determined that consent under EIA regulations is required for the deforestation proposals (some areas being returned to open Forest habitats). Forest Enterprise has been tasked with producing an Environmental Statement for consideration, and we are amongst the stakeholders invited to a scoping exercise in January 2018. DEFRA have agreed to roll forward some elements of the FC’s expired felling license, which was dependent on the now unknown date for approval of the plan by the Inspectorate for renewal.

The Forestry Commission have opened up the next stage of consultation which runs for eight weeks from 11 Apr 2016 to 6 Jun 2016. This will produce the version of the plan which will be submitted for the inspectorate, and final consultation later this year. The NFA will argue that the planned eight weeks may not be sufficient for less nimble organizations (those that meet less frequently, such as Parish Councils, or those larger whose relevant knowledge is spread across expert and consequentially busy staff); we would prefer ten to twelve weeks. When the timeframe was sprung upon the great breadth of Forest organizations in attendance at a special launch day on March 22nd, the FC suggested that they may be “flexible” about the length of the consultation. We will be making our case later this month.

Wetland Restoration Strategy

In a similar spirit of openness the Forestry Commission proposed a Wetland Restoration Strategy at a well-attended December workshop including representatives across the spectrum of the debate. In addition to more constructive engagement with all stakeholders, we hope this will lead to a monitoring program that is apt, affordable and will adequately support future efforts.

The FC have just updated us (12/04/2018) with a view of present and future monitoring plans. We believe these will be robust and adequately adapt and augment standard river monitoring techniques to the unique challenges of the New Forest’s streams and wetlands.  We hope sufficient funding will be allowed to cover a range of catchments including both restored and untouched.

England Coast Path

Understandably our section of Coast, with a nearly uninterrupted series of very protected habitats (some garnering between four and five layers of designation, nationally and internationally), has been a very thorny problem for Natural England, who have nudged the consultation forward throughout the year. Once mooted for March 2017, now February 2018 (the original target date for implementation was March 2018).

Although a habitat adjacent inland route may be viable, the coastal margin created by the default spreading room designated in the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 would potentially create up to 3,500 acres of new access land on these easily disturbed habitats, where it would cause irreparable damage. We hope that Natural England will exclude these, but even if they do, the Ordnance Survey will not show those exclusions. Our main role currently seems to be to remind one and all of the immense importance of our Coast with greater fragility and importance than the precious habitats of the Crown Lands that typically draw our focus.

The eight week consultation on the Highcliffe-Calshot stretch finally began on 14th March 2018 and is due to run until 9th of May 2018. The route itself (barring some quibbles) is reasonable, however the exclusions for spreading room are either incomplete or lacking classification for habitat protection.  The consultation documents themselves are of greater scale and complexity (the sensitive features appraisal alone, at 215 pages is three times larger than the equivalent document for any of the other published stretches), and yet we’re expected to comment on them within the standard 8 week consultation window.  The Sensitive Features Appraisal is rife with error and stops short of a full Habitats Regulation Assessment (relying on flimsy mitigation measures which have failed elsewhere).  We could go on (and we will elsewhere….), but in short, the needs of our habitat point up severe flaws in the legislation, specification and consultation processes.

Recreation Management Strategy

The welcome review of the NPA’s Recreation Management Strategy has been mentioned above in this annual report. Unfortunately the public survey reiterated paragraphs from the current strategy alongside each potential subject heading, leaving some confused as to whether to respond to these remarks or implicitly approve them? For our response we asked that the next RMS should feature priority projects with clear objectives and timeframes. We proposed a comprehensive review of recreation infrastructure within the park, including surveys of habitats, campsites and parking, with actions leading to a provision that is ‘Fit for Purpose’. We proposed initiatives to raise the profile of the National Park so the decision makers of adjacent Authorities and communities become more aware of their impacts on the Forest and ‘Section 62 Duties’, create adequate, proportional mitigation, and petition Central Government for more strategic targets to take pressure off the Forest. We also asked for clearer messages in Education that would easily highlight the Forest’s need for protection as a National Nature Reserve, Working Farm and Working Forest.

Our full response to the RMS survey is here. Subsequent remarks on the Park Authority’s flawed draft interpretation here.

Going Forward — Other areas of concern to address in 2018:

Dibden Bay (ABP) / Fawley Power Station (Fawley Waterside Ltd)

Along with Associated British Ports revisiting their goal of a deep-water container port at Dibden Bay, our Association and the whole of the Forest will be facing many challenges for renewed development of the already heavily urbanised Waterside. This includes the proposal by Fawley Waterside Ltd for the development of a new town, with an estimated population of 3,500 on the site of the Fawley Power Station. The development on the brownfield portion of the site, originally exempted from the National Park, might be hard to resist, but the current proposal includes a ‘village’ built out into the National Park on Tom Tiddler’s Ground*, which is a young coastal grazing marsh and forms a rough habitat that is prime for rehabilitation.

— excerpted with updates and links from the NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee Annual report, by Committee Chair, Brian Tarnoff

* Tom Tiddler’s Ground is considered over several pages in committee member Clive Chatter’s tome Flowers of the Forest.

Finally, we should note that many of our committee members were involved in steering the process which led to the purchase by the RSPB of a major landholding in the Forest, now to be known as RSPB Franchises Lodge.  We’ve been embargoed from discussing this effort as it has unfolded over the years (and at long last announced on 23 Mar 2018).  I wish to thank the RSPB for the purchase, and the members of our committee who identified and shepherded this opportunity to fruition.

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NFA Planning and Transport 2017-18

Here Planning and Transport Chair, Graham Baker weighs in, with some frustrations, over the past year, full of mounting concerns of increased pressure on the Forest. Part of our series of Annual Reports relevant to our AGM on Saturday 21st April 2018.

It is difficult to read the 2016 planning report and not to conclude that 2017 has been a largely wasted year. You will therefore excuse any frustrations that show.

There remains little between our Association and the National Park Authority (NPA) over individual planning applications. In the defined villages we are succeeding in coping with the need to increase central housing densities without disturbing the spacious nature elsewhere and coping with the reduction in retail outlets without losing the vitality of High Streets. Residents agree that the type of housing required is modest, suitable for younger people starting out and older people downsizing. But we are challenged by developers’ desire to build what is most profitable without regard to local need; currently this is managed flats for old people who can afford high charges.

Second home ownership and short-term letting are growing at a rate that could exceed the planned increase in housing numbers. This sometimes requires planning permission and it is always worth knowing the extent of the problem, so please let us know if it happening near to you.

In the countryside problems remain dispersed but accumulatively erode character and traditions. Commoning properties are sold to the extremely well off who then seek to convert their humble holding into something else. Extensions are maximised, tatty outbuildings are replaced by three car garages with fully equipped offices above, large loose boxes are replaced by a row of pretty stables, ménages replace a pleasing adjacent paddock and elaborate electric gates or cattle grids replace five bars. Any common grazing land owned outside the new fence is “tidied” – this usually means easing the entry of the Land Rover Evoque by dumping tonnes of gravel on common grazing land. Often these activities do not break planning rules. Where it does we seeks first to have the applicant reconsider and secondly seek refusal.

Discussions continue on the revised Local Plans of the National Park and NFDC. We have achieved protection for the NF Special Protection Area broadly similar to that of the Thames Basin Heaths. This caused several proposed housing sites to be withdrawn, but rather than reduce numbers, NFNPA sought more sites, previously considered unsuitable, to keep the likely new dwelling numbers at around 35 per annum. The average house price in the Park is £581,000, over 15 times average earnings and there is a desperate need for affordable homes for local people. The NPA recognise the problem but their solutions lack ambition. We believe a straightforward policy that all new housing should be affordable stands the best chance of resisting incessant government meddling and developer manipulation and that the NPA should accept a greater role in securing underutilised publicly owned land in the villages for development.

Since we have become a National Park, the NPA’s own data reports that the success of many species of ground and low nesting birds has suffered a “marked decline”. The universally agreed cause is disturbance from recreation and the extra dwellings being built around the New Forest will result in an additional million visitors per annum, considerably worsening the problem. Despite this it is difficult to find any action stemming from the NPA’s 75 page Recreational Management Strategy since its publication in 2010. The planning committee will do all it can to ensure the emerging Local Plans recognise recreational pressure on the National Park as the primary problem facing the New Forest and that compensation from developers is used in forthright measures to reverse the problem. The relocation or closure Forestry Commission car parks will be one of the most effective management tools in reducing disturbance and we have developed sophisticated mapping techniques to measure levels of disturbance from them.

In 2017, planning volunteers have scrutinised over 1,000 planning applications, responded to a dozen consultations, developed maps, maintained good relationships with the parishes, plotted aircraft routes and surveyed overhead cable routes (with some success the line south and west of Burley is to be buried in 2018). Our thanks go to them all.

Planning & Transport Committee Chair – Graham Baker

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NFA Council and Trustees 2017-18

With our AGM fast approaching on Saturday 21st April 2018, this and next week we’ll feature our annual reports. NFA Chair John Ward reports on the work of our council and trustees on both this year’s work and our 150th Anniversary celebrations.

Formal meetings of Council were held six times and for the Board of Trustees four times during 2017. In addition there were regular meetings of the Habitats and Landscape Committee and the Planning and Transport Committee; and also ad hoc meetings of the Education Working Group. At the end of 2017 there were eight trustees and sixteen nontrustee members of Council.

We have continued to share issues and experiences with other National Park Societies and as a Council member of the Campaign for National Parks (CNP): and have collaborated with them to co-ordinate responses to government and other national consultations and draft proposals that will affect National Parks. Examples of national consultations and draft proposals with implications for the New Forest that have crossed our desks in 2017 include:

  • Department of Transport consultation on the future of strategic roads
  • Emergency Services Network (ESN) – mobile communications
  • Campaign for Better Transport Report
  • Ofgem open letter on RIIO-2 Framework
  • Electricity transmission owner stakeholder consultation
  • Government Housing White Paper
  • Government proposals for Permitted Development Rights
  • Proposed UK Minerals Strategy

We have held informal liaison meetings with the National Park Authority and Forestry Commission; and attend various New Forest forums and working groups including the Consultative Panel and meetings of the Verderers Court. The Friends of the New Forest were in evidence on stands at the New Forest Show and at Roydon Woods Woodfair. Sponsorship funding support was given for the animal accident ‘advert’ on the back of the New Forest Tour bus through 2017; and also for the ‘Our Past Our Future’ projects for ranger training and for habitat restoration. The Association had previously committed to support the project to develop housing for commoners at Rockford farm and during 2017 we contributed to the costs of preparing drawings and making a planning application. On the research side we made a funding contribution to the New Forest Curlew Project.

2017 was, of course, our 150th Anniversary year. At the end of 2016 we launched “Saving the New Forest”, the book written by Peter Roberts telling the story of our Association. It has been selling well throughout 2017. The story of the Association and the New Forest from the mid 19th century until today was put together into a slide show presentation. This has been given to more than 20 groups, reaching over 1,000 people most of whom had not previously heard of us and gaining donations to support our work to protect the Forest.

We organised and hosted the National Parks Societies annual conference, held this year in October at Balmer Lawn Hotel and attended by 50 delegates from other national parks, the Campaign for National Parks, other national bodies and New Forest organisations.

During the year our Anniversary programme provided 16 events. Walks and visits included, the Verderers Court and Lyndhurst Church, Archaeology in Sloden Inclosure, Caring for Pondhead Inclosure, Needs Ore, Rockford and a Fungi Walk at Rans Wood. Following the AGM there were options to visit Furzey Gardens or Minstead Study Centre.

Two events were held specifically to celebrate the 150-year anniversary:

  • Lunch at MJs restaurant was attended by our Patron, Belinda Lady Montagu, and President, Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, together with NFA members and trustees, affiliated Parishes and representatives from the Forestry Commission, Verderers, Commoners and National Park Authority.
  • Council members and invited guests gathered at the Crown Hotel in Lyndhurst on the 22nd of July to raise a glass and mark the day on which the New Forest Association was founded.

We held two receptions and exhibition private views – The New Forest Open Art Exhibition at the New Forest Centre, and New Forest Bird Sculpture by Geoffrey Dashwood at St Barbe Museum and Gallery.

Purely social events proved to be less popular with Friends of the New Forest and a summer garden party and an autumn golf day were cancelled due to lack of support. Unfortunately the intended Frohawk Walk was also cancelled at short notice due to a gypsy drive-in clashing with this event. Ours was not the only anniversary this year. It was the 800th anniversary of the New Forest Charter and panels about the New Forest Association were included in a display at the New Forest Centre. In November we hosted a small delegation from the Anglo-Portuguese community who visited the New Forest in November to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of 150 Portuguese troops to assist with timber production for the war effort.

Two large events for 200 people, both of which were booked out with waiting lists, provided the bookends for the Anniversary Year.

The first was “What Future for the New Forest – A Foot in the Past and an Eye to the Future”, with a keynote address from Council member, Clive Chatters followed by responses from Alison Barnes, Chief Executive of the New Forest National Park Authority, Bruce Rothney, Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest and Dominic May, Official Verderer, together with the audience. Clive identified the management of recreation in the Forest as being a key issue, and concluded that ‘this generation’s responsibility to secure the future of the Forest now lies with us’. By the end of the evening there seemed to be an emerging consensus, particularly with respect to recreation management, that it feels like ‘one of those moments for bold decision making’.

Our final, very well attended event was “An Evening of New Forest Films with Lord Montagu”. This was hosted at the John Montagu Theatre in the Beaulieu Motor Museum, and featured a fascinating array of archive footage of the Forest, some not publicly viewed previously. We thank both Lord Montagu and Dr. Manuel Hinge for this most fitting closing event for our Anniversary year, and their untiring efforts to preserve films that provide an historical, cultural, and community window on the Forest.

Recreation management continued to be a major issue for us through the year. There have been several presentments to the Verderers Court echoing similar concerns, and at the New Forest Show the National Park Authority launched a consultation on reviewing their Recreation Management Strategy. We responded to this consultation and also opened up a dialogue on the subject with the Forestry Commission. We believe this is the most pressing issue needing to be addressed within the Forest and significant action must to be taken to review and change the recreation infrastructure within the Forest. To succeed his must be driven by the statutory authorities with as much vision as those who implemented the 1971 Conservation of the New Forest proposals and not just end in fine words but with little tangible effect.

Chair – John Ward

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DEVELOPMENT THREAT TO THE NEW FOREST

DEVELOPMENT THREAT TO THE NEW FOREST – URGENT
Please help us to help the New Forest. Your action is needed now!

Friends of the New Forest (New Forest Association) is urging our members and supporters to respond to a public consultation in order to protect part of the New Forest National Park from a development scheme that is proposing over 1500 houses (bigger than the size of Lyndhurst) to be built on or near the site of Fawley Power Station.

We believe that this development will have a detrimental impact on the ecology of the area and are urging people to oppose the scheme before the public consultation deadline to the National Park Authority Local Plan ends on 28th February.

Although the Fawley Power Station site itself is in the control of New Forest District Council, it is an ‘island’ within the National Park and the development impacts will fall heavily on the National Park. The proposals of the National Park Authority’s Local Plan could pave the way to development of 1500 or more houses that would clearly constitute a major development.

Your comments on Fawley Power Station Site in the New Forest National Park Authorities Plan should reflect:

• Need for use of site for building not proven.
• Site could be made safe and managed for conservation.
• In the long term the site could be included within the National Park.

If it is developed on the scale proposed (1500 houses) there will a catastrophic environmental impact on the New Forest:

• Extra traffic will cause loss of tranquillity
• Increased risk to Forest livestock – may lead to road widening and fencing.
• Extra recreation will bring more litter and more disturbances.
• Extra recreational horse keeping will raise the cost of renting back up land to beyond what a commoner can afford.

A town of this size will require additional development of schools, surgeries, shops, and pubs.
It will be larger than Lyndhurst (1374 households at 2011) – Would this be tolerated in, say, the Lake District?

In addition it is stated that National Park land will be required for an additional 120 houses:

‘Viability work commissioned by the Authority and New Forest District Council concludes that without some limited development in the National Park, this major brownfield site could only come forward with a very high density development on the brownfield site outside the National Park – development that in itself would have a detrimental impact on the surrounding National Park. ‘

This feels like being held to ransom and is clearly nonsense.

Many of the National Park Authority members are also Councillors of NFDC who are pursuing this development.  How independent is the National Park Authority and how does this development meet the dual purposes of the Park?

This development does not foster the economic and social well-being of the local communities within the National Park – it drops a complete new settlement into its midst which does not in any way comply with National Park purposes.

Another major anomaly is the lack of protection for back-up grazing land. The practice of commoning is recognised as essential to the ecological and heritage assets of the area. Policy SP48 includes ‘…resisting the loss of back-up grazing (which is fundamental to commoning) through development…’

BUT Local Plan Policies SP22 and SP24 recommend approval for 60 houses at Ashurst and 40 houses at Sway that would result in the loss of back up grazing in direct contradiction to the earlier policy.

PLEASE OBJECT TO THE LOCAL PLAN
BEFORE THE END OF THIS MONTH
Particularly Policies SP22, SP24 and SP25

YOU MAY OBJECT BY emailing THE NATIONAL PARK PLANNING TEAM AT:
policy@newforestnpa.gov.uk

OR

BY FILLING IN THE NATIONAL PARK AUTHORITY FORM AT:
https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/GJRLLJJ

Information about the local plan and a copy of the local plan are here:
http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/info/20040/planning_policy/361/local_plan

We are grateful for your support.

Friends of the New Forest
Registered Charity No. 260328

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NFA Comment on Dibden Bay

The perennial threat of development of Dibden Bay by Associated British Ports (ABP) for a container port appears to be back on the table according to stories yesterday from both the BBC and the Southampton Daily Echo, with ABP complaining of limited capacity and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond saying he would support the development which would no longer be subject to a local planning inquiry, but would be considered a National Infrastructure Project.

Our Chair, John Ward, has commented:

Dibden Bay at Low Tide - geograph.org.uk - 386918
The harmful impacts to wildlife and to the landscape of the New Forest that would be caused by developing Dibden Bay as a container port would be no less today, tomorrow or in the coming decade than they would have been in 2004 when a lengthy planning inquiry led to the rejection of a similar proposal.

The one thing of major significance to have happened since then has been the designation of the New Forest National Park, recognising that in addition to its massive importance for habitats and wildlife the New Forest is one of ‘the finest landscapes in England’. Government national planning policy emphasises the great weight that should be given to conserving the landscape and scenic beauty of National Parks.

Dibden Bay is immediately adjacent to the boundary of the New Forest National Park. There is no hinterland, no buffer zone. At present on one side of this line there is Forest heathland and trees and on the other the environmentally important marsh and reclaimed land of Dibden Bay. Apart from the destruction of valuable habitat, a container port would bring vast cranes reaching far into the sky, 24 hour intensive lighting and greatly increased traffic not just from transporting containers but serving all of the ancillary activity that would spill out across surrounding areas.

The west side of Southampton Water is already a busy area jostling against the fragile special qualities of the New Forest. It is no place for further major development.

Fracking the Forest?

 

With the Government taking the decision on fracking away from Lancashire County Council on 6th October 2016, this brief review of our position and the possibility of hydraulic fracturing in this region could be of use.

The NFA support the position of the Campaign For National Parks, that fracking in or under our National Parks has significant environmental impacts – polluting groundwater, damaging the landscape and ruining tranquility, and is inappropriate for the setting.  While we’ve been given to understand that the New Forest’s geology would not be attractive to fracking, we do not want to see this for any of our National Parks or other protected areas. Additionally the precedent it establishes for putting supposed infrastructure demands over these designations is truly chilling. 33 years ago an application by Shell UK to drill for oil and gas in Denny Inclosure was seen off, a battle we shouldn’t have to fight all over again.

Last year, when the Government was in the midst of its U-Turn on a promise not to license fracking in National Parks (eventually arriving at the position that they would allow drilling from just outside National Parks to go under them), Durham University published an article ranking the Parks likelihood for hydraulic fracturing.

New Forest National Park: (Geology: http://bit.ly/1zPvEi0)
A relatively young geology and the rocks close to the surface have no shale gas, shale oil, or coal bed methane potential. Oil and gas have been found in rocks beneath areas close to the New Forest, and there has been exploration in the national park, but there is no evidence of any oil- or gas-bearing shales that would be of interest to fracking companies.

The Briefing Note puts the Forest in its middle Amber (fracking unlikely) category (along with Brecon Beacons, Exmoor, and Northumberland).  It listed four national parks as Red (fracking possible): North York Moors, Peak District, South Downs, and Yorkshire Dales (rocks of possible interest to companies looking to frack for shale gas, shale oil, or coalbed methane).

Whilst researching other goings on at the Verderers Court, this item from 2014 popped up that suggests that fracking could come closer to the Forest than we had supposed:

2014/
7364
HAMPSHIRE MINERALS & WASTE – OIL AND GAS DEVELOPMENT – REPORT ON MEETING ON 5TH JUNE 2014

Mrs Westerhoff attended the meeting on behalf of the Court. The discussion centred around fracking. Two areas have been identified as potential sites, one being The Weald (as far west as Winchester) and the other is in Dorset reaching east to Thorney Hill adjacent to the New Forest. Whilst the New Forest could be fracked in the future, Mrs Westerhoff understood it would only happen under exceptional circumstances and would be subject to the European legislation protecting the SAC.

–Verderers Minutes June 2014
DISCHARGE

With the unknown shape of the Brexit plan, the reassurance of protection from the SAC (Special Area of Conservation, a European designation), is under threat unless those protections are formally and thoroughly back-stopped in UK legislation and policy.

The most recent Hampshire Minerals and Waste Plan was adopted in 2013, before the more recent changes in policy and legislation. Subsequently, December 2015 they updated the On-shore Oil & Gas FAQs  (60 pages) and in February 2016 the Hampshire Authorities adopted the Oil and gas development Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) (90 pages).  From the FAQ:

Oil and gas exploration in National Parks

There are known oil and gas resources within Hampshire’s two National Parks and exploration already takes place within the South Downs National Park. There are other examples nationally of where oil and gas development takes place within designated areas. This includes western Europe’s largest oilfield at Wytch Farm, Dorset and sites in Surrey all of which are located within designated areas for nature conservation. The potential impact of a proposal on designations will be taken into account in detail at the planning application stage. The Government has recently announced new planning guidance on unconventional oil and gas development in areas of designation such as National Parks, AONBs and heritage sites (see question 23). There are also policies in the adopted Hampshire Minerals & Waste Plan in relation to minerals developments in designated areas (including Policy 4: Protection of the designated landscape) which will be used to guide whether planning permission should be given in such locations.

In December 2015, there was a vote in the House of Commons regarding hydraulic fracturing in National Parks. MPs voted in favour of allowing hydraulic fracturing to take place 1,200 metres below National Parks and Sites of Special Scientific Interest, as long as the drilling (and associated infrastructure) takes place from outside the designated areas.

There are no licences in the New Forest National Park administrative area.

The Weald in the South Downs National Park is a target for fracking, and would be a potential testbed for the 1200 metre rule.  In September 2016 their Authority rejected a plan for horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing.  The applicant believes “this proposal would be supported by the Planning Inspectorate or the Secretary of State in the event of an appeal.”  Given that the British Geological Survey (BGS) estimate 2.2 and 8.6 billion barrels of shale oil beneath the Weald Basin, that appeal could be in with a chance as that may be deemed nationally significant.  We may need to lend our support to our neighbours should this go forward.

The “Reverse the decision to allowing fracking under our national parks.” parliament petition closed on June 19th 2016, with just 38,732 signatures, not enough to be granted a debate(>100k), but enough (>10k) to trigger a Government response, which includes these provisos about protected areas that leave us feeling much less protected:

The protected areas in which hydraulic fracturing will be prohibited have been set out through the Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations, which were formally approved by both Houses of Parliament in December 2015. These regulations ensure that the process of hydraulic fracturing cannot take place above 1200 metres in National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs), World Heritage Sites and areas that are most vulnerable to groundwater pollution.

Rather than enabling operations in protected areas, these regulations introduce an additional protection to our most sensitive areas and complement the strong protections already provided by the planning system. Moreover, it is worth emphasising that the regulations do not in themselves grant any form of permission for “associated hydraulic fracturing” to take place under any of these sites. They simply establish the principle that hydraulic fracturing should be prohibited by legislation in the specified areas and down to the specified depth. A company looking to develop shale will still need to obtain all the necessary permissions, like planning and environmental permits – and any proposals will necessarily be subject to further detailed consideration and scrutiny under our legal and regulatory regimes.

Orwellian newspeak at its finest “an additional protection to our most sensitive areas”, these sensitive areas would not need additional protection, if they weren’t under threat from this activity in the first place.  They should simply be removed from the equation entirely.  Putting an arbitrary depth of 1200 metres also ignores the fact that those 1200 metres (and the water table) will be drilled through to get to that level, that hole, however well engineered will be connected to the area into which fracking fluid will be pumped at high pressure.  What could possibly go wrong?  Fracking was temporarily suspended in 2011 after earthquakes were caused near Blackpool.

In the 16th December 2015 vote on the Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing (Protected Areas) Regulations 2015 — Extension of Prohibition of Shale Gas Extraction, New Forest East MP Dr. Julian Lewis spoke against the regulation publicly, but abstained from the vote. New Forest West MP Desmond Swayne voted with the Government to allow fracking under National Parks. This is all the more troubling as the west of the Forest is in closest proximity to proposed sites, as noted by David Harrison, Lib Dem councillor, member of the New Forest National Park Authority, “I imagine the west of New Forest will be mainly affected.”

The NFA discussed fracking issues at the November 2015 Council meeting, and although it is unlikely that the Forest’s geology would attract fracking per se, we’re completely against this approach both in principle, and the possibility that it would open the door to similar exploitation. These fights are perennial and ongoing.

The protections offered to designated landscapes and habitats, National Parks and SSSI, et.al. must  be honoured and remain meaningful.

Cables Buried At Buckland Rings


There….

Buckland Rings is an Iron Age Hillfort (and modern day informal BMX track) situated on the National Park’s border with Lymington.  To its south and east ran a 33v overhead cable which spoilt  the setting of the fort from the adjacent open access.

The cable has now been buried as part of Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks £15m project to underground 90km of overhead lines in AONB and National Parks in North Scotland and Central Southern England.  A few weeks after the burial no evidence of the work can be seen on the ground.

… and gone.

NFA are now championing the burying of the cable from Hicheslea west along the old Ringwood train line via Slap Bottom to Bagnam.  If anyone out there has an overhead cable in the New Forest National Park they particularly dislike, they should should contact planning@newforestassociation.org

— Graham Baker, Chair, Planning Committee

(web editor’s note: perhaps we could reduce our planning committee’s workload by only notifying them of any overhead cables anyone is actually fond of….)