Top Menu

Tag Archives | RMS

Recreation Management: An Overview

Recreation Management Strategy 2010 – 2030 (May 2010)

Last year the New Forest National Park Authority launched a review of the Recreation Management Strategy (RMS), its core policy document for Recreation.  With over 60 action points over 60 pages, it is very wide ranging, but also fuzzy, aspirational, and many of its projected tasks are yet planned, let alone achieved.  We welcomed the review with the hope that a more practical and focused update would lead to needed change.

In Summer 2017 the Authority launched the review with the “Forest First” online survey.  Whilst, as far as we were concerned, this may have been a good PR exercise to raise the profile of the RMS review, the survey itself was flawed in its format, execution and interpretation.  The Strategy needs to address many statutory obligations to habitat, to commoning and the working forest, and a complex mesh of overarching issues including wider town and country planning across the region.  Reducing many aspects of this to an online poll ranking whether walking, cycling, or golf are more important than cricket, camping and coastal access, is an unhelpful distraction seemingly promoting activities rather than looking at their impacts and how best to minimise them.

We sidestepped the survey and gave a response calling for specific projects in areas of education, infrastructure for recreation in and outside the park.   Our Response

We criticised the format and unintended messages of the survey in the very brief window afforded in the Public Questions at the July 2017 Park Authority meeting.  At the January 2018 meeting we criticised the faulty interpretation of the results.  At the May 2018 Verderers Court we raised concerns over the plan to run a second survey intended to be a final consultation with the public on the new document.

To see all related articles (including this overview which we’ll update as this progresses) click here: http://newforestassociation.org/tag/rms/

Latest update 8 June 2018.

0

Presentment: Recreation Management Strategy : May

RMS Findings report Cover Image Horse-riding-on-heath

At January’s Court, I asked you to take with a blood pressure threatening portion of salt, the results of last year’s online RMS survey, which by its own terms made no attempt to get “a balanced and representative sample”, and included provably false misreadings of its mere 1500 respondents[*].  A true consultation would present the relative merits, pros and cons of its statements, no attempt was made towards this in the survey.

When I make these complaints to park authority staff, who now erroneously refer to this poll as a “consultation”, they have a tendency to brush these off with the tautological statement that all must be well because the process has been signed off by the Six Organizations on the RMS Steering Group including NE FC HCC NPA NFDC and of course, the Verderers. [This confers a collective infallibility which I would not burden you with.]

Sadly, as another online poll will be used to comment on new RMS proposals, we’re now due to repeat that meaningless exercise this year. There are some good ideas within these proposals[†], but they are incomplete and unfocussed, and very much the result of the messy group think employed.

The review of the RMS should have a broader vision, which acknowledges that the complexity of solutions required may need more than 144 characters to express, should include not just the recreation provisions for neighbouring authorities, but strategic review of new development that puts greater recreation pressure on the Forest. This brings housing targets and mitigation regimen across the entire region into the discussion[‡]. This cannot be done in a format more suited to counting how many people like that photo of a fox cub, or if you think that dress is blue/black or white/gold.

The future of the Forest, and its millions of recreational visitors, should not be at the behest of an insecure online poll whose unverifiable population is half that of Lyndhurst. We want an RMS aimed at Managing Recreation Strategically to fulfill the Statutory Purposes of the Park, and the legal obligations to protect the designated habitats. We want leadership able to defend that Strategy in a public consultation, even the measures which may not be simply explained, or may need defence against interest groups who would put their needs above those of the habitat, commoning’s working farm and forestry. Please use your seat at the table to stop this important document, and the process guiding it from being dumbed down.


[*] One item was interpreted as having “wide public support”, despite only being supported by 22%.

[†] See Addendum below.

[‡] The RMS would need to confront the aspects of the NFNPA and NFDC draft local plans which will pave the way for an inappropriately large development, wholly within the National Park, creating a new population centre of 3500 people (larger than Lyndhurst). Placed 30 minutes down a cul de sac with paltry mitigation for that population which would be dumped entirely on the Forest for Recreation provision, and on the road infrastructure (requiring upgrades that would encroach into the Forest, and greater traffic across animal accident hotspots within the Forest).

ADDENDUM:

The Addendum written for the Verderers referred them to  the NFA’s response to last year’s Future Forest survey, then included these additional remarks on the latest RMS proposals under our three main areas for specific, achievable projects.

National Park Infrastructure

The proposals do contain an aspiration to create a map to be used to address infrastructure priorities, but this is given an absurd “quick-win” goal of being produced within a year of the adoption of the RMS update. Rather than specifying key criteria and gathering evidence to base a sound spatial strategy, this will be done with whatever haphazard data is to hand or may be hastily compiled within that timeframe leading to an infrastructure just as damagingly arbitrary as that which we’ve inherited.

Adjacent Authorities and Communities

The proposals limit discussion of influencing adjacent authorities to their recreation provisions, where placement of population increases from new development if often the strongest driver in creating recreation pressure on the Forest. Mitigation regimes use formula developed by Natural England for Thames Basin Heaths, which does not scale appropriately to the Forest because a) the Forest is much richer in features and biodiversity at threat and should cost developers more b) the morphology of the Forest is different: Thames Basin Heaths spatially has greater opportunity for alternative spaces, where the Forest, surrounded, creates more of a siege situation (with only one defence to the West at Moors Valley, and plans to the East eternally pipe dreamed).

Education

Of course there is a useful “Raising awareness and understanding” action point which is front and centre, but it is focussed very much on doing more of the same, but more often in more places with better production values, not shifting the message to significantly highlight the habitats and ways of life under threat. Getting a very simple key notion across that the Forest needs our collective respect and protection could give those education efforts a more useful focus and lead to positive impact.

 

0

Recreation Management Strategy and Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership Strategy

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

Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership Strategy

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

Recreation Management Strategy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

0

Recreation Management Strategy Survey Response

Our response to the Future Forest RMS Survey launched by the New Forest National Park Authority.  We call for priority projects to address outdated infrastructure, boost regard for protecting the Forest with neighbouring authorities, and education focusing on the Forest status as a National Nature Reserve and working commoning landscape.  We sidestepped the unintentionally restrictive and misleading elements of the survey (including categories and canned language from the previous Strategy document) to focus on demand for plans for action with clear goals and realistic time frames.

Recreation Management Strategy Survey Response

The New Forest Association welcomes this opportunity to feed into ongoing Recreation Management on the New Forest and this survey meant to guide the Strategy’s next incarnation. We hope this process will deliver a more focussed strategy that yields high priority projects to reform our outdated recreation infrastructure, and elevates the discussion of the National Park as a protected natural landscape requiring a duty of care from ourselves and our neighbours.

Reference to Park Purposes and Special Qualities

Both the New Forest National Park and its younger sibling, the South Downs, are the two most densely populated national parks in the UK, and have significant populations in environs for regular use and day visitors. Unlike the less populated, more remote parks, the recreation management goals should firmly be based on the purpose to Protect.

This is summed up in English National Parks and the Broads UK Government Vision and Circular 2010:

However, in light of research published in 2005 (20), the Government recognises that not all forms of outdoor recreation are appropriate in each Park and that activities which would have an adverse impact on the Parks’ special qualities and other people’s enjoyment of them may need to be excluded (in order to meet the requirements of section 11A(2) of the 1949 Act).

All of the “Special qualities”: outstanding natural beauty, habitat, heritage, commoning / working forest, free roaming livestock, tranquillity, quiet recreation, low levels of urbanisation are under threat from increased recreation pressure which disturbs and destroys habitat, creates wear and tear on the fabric of the Forest and interrupts tranquillity. The aim is not to invite more recreation than the Forest may sustain, but to protect the Forest by managing the recreation that takes place here, and honour the Sandford Principle as enshrined by the 1995 Act.

An Actual Management Strategy

We need more focus on practical, achievable goals, along with a plan that can achieve them within defined timeframes to which the Park and its stakeholders may commit. It’s all very well and good to list our many aspirations as the current strategy does, but few of the “within 5 years” goals have been achieved in its first seven years.

The main way we can control where recreation happens within the Forest is where people park and camp. Outside of the Park we can call for greater alternative recreation provision, and less development that swells the population and moves a hard urban edge toward the park boundaries. Priority projects must be chosen and developed from our aspirations, to achieve significant gains to Protect the Forest, particularly the open access areas of the Crown Lands and their adjacent Commons.

Infrastructure Within the Park

(Sustainable services and facilities / Camping and caravanning / Joined Up Routes / England Coast Path)

We’ve inherited an outdated infrastructure imposed in the 1960’s that replaced the previous free for all with over 130 Forestry Commission car parks and 10 camp sites. While these disperse activity throughout the Forest, and have come to be relied on by their users, no one can say that they are in the best places to protect our more sensitive habitats and species from disturbance. We do know that the campsites in the A&O Woodlands of Holland’s Wood and Denny were slated for removal under the SAC Management Plan 2001 (their management for camping has degraded their habitat, our campsite survey showed these have less than half the canopy they ought).

Practical steps to make this provision fit for purpose must be taken. A straightforward assessment of the current provision could easily be carried out ASAP. A well designed assessment of the habitat to create the evidence base against which to model future proposals for recreation infrastructure placement would be the next highest priority. Discussions may include charging for car parks to cover maintenance and on the ground resources, models for camping provision both elsewhere on FC land and/or on private land. Delivery of “joined up routes” and The England Coast Path would be subject to the results of any relevant habitat assessments and should not go forward in their absence.

Infrastructure Outside the Park

(Influencing recreational provision beyond the boundaries of the National Park)

A huge wave of development is proposed on our borders, given little strategic consideration for the Park, unreasonable housing targets from Central Government for all local authorities, token mitigation which does not adequately reflect the value of the Forest, we’ve little hope for avoiding a substantial increase of recreational activity that will be dumped on the Forest. The Forest is under a palpable threat, and needs influence on both development and recreation provision outside the Park.

Our adjacent and concurrent authorities have shown little respect to their Environment Act 1995 Section 62 duty to have regard to National Park purposes. Sometimes the opposite, Test Valley Borough Council once proposed using National Trust Foxbury (adjacent to Common and an SSSI candidate) within the park as SANG mitigation for one of their housing schemes. Section 62 must be considered by our neighbours, not merely for mitigation purposes but for all development.

The mitigation regime is limited, flawed, and does not proportionally value the New Forest. SANG mitigation schemes are based on figures developed by Natural England regarding the Thames Basin Heaths SPA which has a fraction of the notified features that the New Forest possesses, if these were properly scaled up to reflect the Forest’s relative habitat value, many SANG’s on offer would need to be nearly the size of the Forest itself. SANG sites themselves may have their own designated habitats that are sacrificed, and many are proposed with no long term plan or funding for their maintenance.

We must make the debate about these allocations more visible, more public. The New Forest is the last stand for many of its habitats throughout the UK, it is of national and international importance, our neighbours and central government need to be constantly reminded of this.

Education

(Raising awareness and understanding)

Whilst this is already the National Park’s strongest suit, there are certain nuances missing. The National Park has made great inroads in areas such as social media. However, even at our own 150th Anniversary keynote event in January 2017, the audience of very engaged locals clearly included many who still did not understand the Park’s purposes, functions or capabilities. This perhaps suggests that the Park still has work to do piercing the bubble beyond their current success.

One of the key problems the National Park has to overcome, is the word “Park” in its name, which too often is taken for “a large public garden or area of land used for recreation” . Explaining the legislation that gives the “National” prefix its protective connotation, and the slew of habitat designations and their acronyms does not thoroughly dispel that erroneous notion. The message up front should be simplified, the Crown Lands have the status of a National Nature Reserve, a Working Farm and Forest. With that in mind we can then ask “what activities are appropriate there”, “in order to protect such a place, what are you willing to do differently or do without?” “We have the privilege of open access to this place, what responsibilities must we take on?”

Conclusions

The next RMS should include the following priority projects:

  • National Park Infrastructure –
    • Parking and Camping Provision Assessment
    • Habitat Assessment / Evidence Base
    • Actions to lead to provision design Fit For Purpose
  • Adjacent Authorities and Communities –
    • Raise the profile of development on our borders that will affect the Forest
    • Brief Decision makers on impacts on the Forest and Section 62 Duties
    • Make nearby communities aware of their representatives responsibilities
    • Promote adequate, proportional mitigation
    • Petition Central Government for more strategic targets to take pressure off the Forest
  • Education –
    • Develop clearer more straightforward messages
    • Look to reach other audiences
    • Easily highlight the Forest’s need for protection
      • National Nature Reserve
      • Working Farm
      • Working Forest
      • In context of the ongoing Habitat Loss in the UK

Whilst other aspirations remain, solid plans and policies addressing these areas will have the most impact. Consultation over future versions of the RMS should include messages consistent with the National Park’s purposes and priorities, and not be shy in making a case for resources and changes necessary for implementation. The NFA hope to be able to support this Authority in its efforts to Manage Recreation in The New Forest, and willing to lend our time, knowledge and resources towards achieving these priority tasks in provision redesign, influence on strategic planning and mitigation, and education.


ADDENDUM:

English National Parks and the Broads
UK
Government Vision and Circular 2010

4. Priority Outcomes for 2010 – 2015 and suggested actions
4.1 A Renewed Focus on Achieving the Park Purposes page 10

  1. The Parks contain a variety of landscapes, capable of accommodating many different types of leisure activity. Authorities should continue to identify and promote new access and recreational opportunities and ways of delivering them, working proactively with a range of statutory and non-statutory interests such as local access forums (see section 5.6), Natural England, English Heritage, voluntary sectors and, particularly, farmers, commoners and landowners. However, in light of research published in 2005 (20), the Government recognises that not all forms of outdoor recreation are appropriate in each Park and that activities which would have an adverse impact on the Parks’ special qualities and other people’s enjoyment of them may need to be excluded (in order to meet the requirements of section 11A(2) of the 1949 Act).

(20 Demand for Outdoor Recreation in the English National Parks – Countryside Agency October 2004 (updated March 2005 and published alongside a Guide to Good Practice in managing and promoting outdoor recreation in the Parks) )

NFNPA/RPC 51/08 Page 1

The National Park’s special qualities
The New Forest National Park’s landscape is unique; it is a ‘living’ and working remnant of medieval England with an overwhelming sense of continuity, tradition, and history. It is the survival of not just one special quality but a whole range of features that brings a sense of completeness and integrity.

These features include:

  • the New Forest’s outstanding natural beauty: the sights, sounds and smells of ancient woodland with veteran trees, heathland, bog, autumn colour and an unspoilt coastline with views of the Solent and Isle of Wight
  • an extraordinary diversity of plants and animals of international importance
  • a unique historic, cultural and archaeological heritage from royal hunting ground to ship-building, salt making and 500 years of military coastal defence
  • an historic commoning system that maintains so much of what people know and love as ‘the New Forest’ forming the heart of a working landscape based on farming and forestry
  • the iconic New Forest Pony together with donkeys, pigs and cattle roaming free
  • tranquillity in the midst of the busy, built up south of England
  • wonderful opportunities for quiet recreation, learning and discovery in one of the last extensive, gentle landscapes in the south including unmatched open access on foot and horseback
  • a healthy environment: fresh air, clean water, local produce and a sense of ‘wildness’, low levels of urbanisation
  • strong and distinctive local communities with real pride in and sense of identity with their local area

 

  • SUMMARY: outstanding natural beauty, habitat, heritage, commoning / working forest, free roaming livestock, tranquillity, quiet recreation, low levels of urbanisation, local communities
0

Recreation Management Strategy Survey / England Coast Path NFNPA July 2017

This Statement was made to the New Forest National Park Authority at their meeting on 13th July 2017. Whilst we welcome the review of the RMS, the emphasis and approach of the survey used to launch the review process left much to be desired.

Recreation Management Strategy Survey

Brevity required here dictates some bluntness, so I won’t speak at length about the fuzziness of a survey with canned answers, two tweets worth of space for comment on complex issues. Our main concern is the cart firmly misplaced before the pony. A clear example from the “Join the Debate” page which asks for our help to:

  • “provide the best recreational experience for local people and our visitors”
  • “protect the very thing people come to see – the spectacular, yet fragile landscape which is a haven for many rare wildlife species” [*]

You can’t promise the best recreational experience, or do a survey which at least in part is a call for a wish list for recreational interests, with the implication demand could be met, when you still haven’t determined what level of recreation is appropriate. The purpose of this exercise is to develop and implement a Recreation Management Strategy, not a Recreation Delivery Menu. Apt messages on the “Putting the Forest First” page should have been incorporated into the survey where they might have a chance of being read.

What we’d like to see first is an accounting on the current Management Strategy: which of the goals have had little or nothing done? Many targets are driven not by public demand, but from statutory obligations to the habitats and to the working Forest, and should not change. We need more focus on practical, achievable goals. The main way we can control where recreation happens within the forest is where people park and camp.

A worthwhile exercise could start by pointing to the Crown Lands as a National Nature Reserve, a Working Farm and Forest, and ask “what activities are appropriate there”, “in order to protect such a place, what are you willing to do differently or do without?”

The NFA hope to be able to support this Authority in its efforts to Manage Recreation, but we need to see a clearer indication of leadership that delivers the more difficult purposes of the Park, instead of focusing on the path of least resistance offered by the last and least, “enjoy”.

With the then promised August publication of the Highcliffe to Calshot stretch of the England Coast Path (originally mooted for Feb 2017, — eventually delayed to March 2018), we highlighted some basic issues with the Path for the New Forest.

England Coast Path

Legislation has mandated the England Coast Path, which in other regions may provide useful alternative recreation, pleasant views and tourist destinations. For the New Forest it will serve to invite more disturbance into our most precious coastal habitats (a nearly uninterrupted series of highly designated and protected zones of international importance).

There is no funding for mitigation and little regard for infrastructure; some stretches, near or on small country lanes in the most remote parts of our coast, precisely where we wouldn’t want to exacerbate the verge parking problem.

The Ordnance Survey will inaccurately show spreading room (the entire seaward side of the path) as accessible, disregarding the need to delineate excluded areas (as much of our coast will be). Arguments will be had with visitors assured by the allegedly definitive map that they (and their pets) may trespass on bird nesting grounds regardless of what the signs say.

We hope the authority will resist the worst excesses of this arbitrary unnecessary exercise.


ADDENDUM:

Please note, if time allowed I’d add many provisos pointing to some more positive examples of work which we support.

We are disappointed in many of the failures to act on the current strategy. Despite the prescription from the SAC Management Plan for removal, we still have campsites destroying Ancient and Ornamental Woodland, the campsite survey showed these have less than half the canopy they ought, and this Authority’s Landscape Action Plan doesn’t even have the word campsite in it, let alone a consideration of their impact. Even a straightforward assessment of car parking provision, which we’ve spec’ed out as not particularly costly, has not been done.

Credible enforcement of any rules developed, or even the existing byelaws, would require an investment in personnel that may not find funding, although we hope our support of the Ranger programme is a start.

A huge wave of development is proposed on our borders, given little strategic consideration for the Park, unreasonable housing targets from Central Government for all local authorities, token mitigation which does not adequately reflect the value of the Forest, we’ve little hope for avoiding a substantial increase of recreational activity that will be dumped on the Forest. The Forest is under a palpable threat. So forgive us for not mincing words in pursuit of brevity.

[*] Editor’s (sour) note : “the spectacular, yet fragile landscape which is a haven for many rare wildlife species” is a very underwhelming description for highly protected habitats and ecosystems – this suggests a pretty place that a handful of rare things happen to live in. The Forest is a mosaic of habitats, many of which have dwindled to nearly nothing in the rest of the UK. It is the entire precious fabric of these ecosystems which needs our protection, not merely a few birds and lizards. It is a last stand for many habitats and species.

The full text, including the Addendum (not read to the Authority) was provided to Authority Members. Statements in the Public Questions section of Authority Meetings are limited to 3 minutes, even if multiple subjects are addressed. The statements are often necessarily terse, brusque and assume knowledge by the Authority Members of the issues addressed.
0