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Archive | April, 2016

Hit and Run Accident Prosecutions

Now that the foals are starting to appear on the open forest, with more due to drop throughout May, we felt we should publicise the now available announcements from the Official Verderer at the March 2016 Court.



The Court is appalled by the increase in Hit and Run drivers after hitting a legally grazing animal. May I remind everyone that the stock is grazing the New Forest by right, and you are driving the roads by privilege.

If a Hit & Run driver is identified, the Verderers will push for the police to prosecute for animal cruelty, possibly leading to a jail sentence. I would like to remind the Court of a past prosecution whereby a driver from Hyde was convicted in Southampton Magistrates Court of failing to stop and report an accident and causing unnecessary suffering under the Animal Welfare Act 2006. On the charge of ‘causing unnecessary suffering to an animal’ he was sentenced 28 days detention.

The Court will urge the relevant authorities to prosecute for cruelty wherever such a case arises. The rules on simply reporting a motor accident are quite separate from those governing cruelty. It may be sufficient to report damage to a garden fence within 24 hours. Cruelty results from leaving an animal suffering for any length of time that can be avoided. The police should always be telephoned within minutes. If you have no mobile phone signal, knock on the nearest house and ask to use the landline!’

Here’s the Verderers response to Richard Deacon’s excellent presentment from February, which, with his kind permission we were able to share previously.


‘Thank you’ to Richard Deacon for making his presentment about speeding though Linwood. The Verderers support you in your desire to slow down the traffic, and also your wish to remove much of the traffic by discouraging the use of this road as a rat run to avoid the A31. I therefore wrote in mid-February to Hampshire County Council to request that the speed limit through Linwood Village be reduced from 40mph to 30mph as it is in most other New Forest Villages.

In my letter, I have also chased up for Hampshire County Council’s long-awaited proposal to make the road across Broomy Plain a single track with passing places. If a single track road with passing places were implemented here, traffic would be slowed by the inconvenience, and use as an A31 bypass would diminish considerably.

And I have requested that Hampshire County Council erects a sign the entrance to the open Forest at Moyles Court.

I have not yet received a reply from Hampshire County Council, and when I do, I will update the Court further.

Meanwhile, we have requested that Hampshire Constabulary consider the area as a site for our Verderers-funded Speed Camera Van.’

We’d further note that at the April Verderers court, the Official Verderer was displeased by Hampshire County Council’s inadequate response to this issue. Details as they become available… (Court proceedings are currently only published after minutes of both the private in camera meetings of the Verderers and the sitting of the open court have been approved at the following month’s session).

NFA President’s Report 2015-16

We leave the last word before tomorrow’s Annual General Meeting to our esteemed President, Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre. He sets this year’s work against the backdrop of developments in conservation and planning on the national stage.

In last year’s report I mentioned the growing financial challenges that beset the Forest’s publicly funded bodies such as the Forestry Commission, Natural England and the National Park Authority. At that time we had yet to get through the general election and the future was shrouded in uncertainty. However, the election is now far behind us and in his public spending review statement before Christmas last year the Chancellor delighted conservationists by singling out England’s National Parks as organisations that would be protected from any government cuts for the next five years. Not only that, the existing grant would be increased each year by almost 2%. The only other organisation to receive this special treatment was the police force.

Whatever the Chancellor’s reasons were for this welcome decision, we must not squander our moment in the sun. We must not assume that the goodwill that seems to currently ooze out of Defra is something that will be either perpetuated or repeated, and all the Forest’s bodies must combine forces to extract the most that we can from this opportune climate.

The Secretary of State for the Environment, Liz Truss, is very keen to make some lasting decisions for conservation, and has commissioned a Plan for National Parks in England, and a brisk period of consultation has now started with a view to launching the plan later this spring. This is running parallel to the creation of a separate and broader 25-year conservation plan for the whole country. It is still very much on the drawing board, but at present its focus is, I am happy to report, on reinforcing the special status that places like the New Forest have as protected landscapes.

We must watch the process carefully, and ensure that the new plan avoids entering in to the territory of actively promoting tourism and ever more visitors to the Forest. We are the smallest of the country’s national parks, and yet we have the most visitors for our size by far. Indeed, when looking at the large centres of population that surround the Forest the term “besieged” could sensibly be used! However, if the new plan is properly written and intentioned it will, I hope, be good news for the Forest.

looking at the large centres of population that surround the Forest the term “besieged” could sensibly be used!

In the meantime the Council’s laudable efforts to influence the Forestry Commission in its decisions on how to control fungi picking continue. Prompted by the excellent public statements recently made by this Association, there is strong support for the view that the Commission should copy the bold action taken by the National Trust and ban all picking until it can be shown that no harm is being done by uncontrolled gathering of mushrooms in the Forest. This would follow the precautionary principle which is the conservationist’s touchstone, including (one would hope) that of Natural England as the Government’s advisors on such matters. It does seem to be totally illogical that the Commission’s byelaws strictly and quite rightly prohibit the unauthorised removal of any plants and trees from its land, which is enforced, and yet mushrooms are somehow not deemed to be worthy of the same protection.

The Council continues to very effectively monitor the constant flow of planning applications in the Forest, and selectively lends its support or objections for applications with great effect whenever necessary. This year sees a full blown review of existing planning policy. An in-depth consultation is underway with all concerned parties to ensure that any changes are properly thought through and supported.

Our Association is heavily involved in this process, and is keeping a very close eye on the flow of new national planning proposals that are coming from the Government, many of which are designed to encourage a rapid nationwide acceleration in the building of new houses. We need to ensure that the New Forest is exempt from those measures which would potentially damage the landscape and its special qualities. Nobody doubts the need for more housing in England, but we must continue where necessary to persuade Ministers that some of the new ideas are definitely not appropriate for highly sensitive and protected places like the Forest. The work continues.

As ever, on behalf of all the members of the Association, I would like to conclude my report by thanking the Council for its vigilance and hard work over the year.

— Oliver Crosthwaite Eyre, President, New Forest Association

NFA Habitat & Landscape 2015-16

Highlighting tomorrow’s NFA AGM, further amended excerpts from our Habitat and Landscape Committee’s Annual Report

Our ecologists have had a very busy year, and I hope they will forgive me if this report cannot hope to capture the full scope of their efforts. They have my, and I presume the Association’s, deepest thanks.

Site Visits

HAL members attended site visits and provided feedback for a variety of Forestry Commission led habitat restoration and maintenance project proposals. This has included:

  •     Linford Bottom
  •     Norley Mire, Bagshot Moor, Upper Crockford Bottom,
  •     Three Beech Bottom and Horseshoe Earth
  •     Ogdens Mire and Sloden Inclosure
  •     Lyndhurst South (Coxlease Lawn, Brick Kiln Mire, Allum Green)
  •     Waters Copse, Withycombe Shade
  •     Broomy/Ocknell Plain (Suburbs Wood Mire, Broomy Bottom, Linford Brook Mire)
  •     Dibden Bottom, The Noads Mire, Ferny Croft

We continue to support the FC’s restorations. We would like to see more resources for monitoring, a more procedural basis for prioritizing the schemes with clear reference to the framework provided by the habitats regulations and the SAC Management Plan and a cohesive grand design for habitat restoration across the whole of the Forest.

The Forest Design Plan

In July 2015, we were one of a select group of conservation organizations invited by the Forestry Commission to comment on their earliest draft of the next Forest Design Plan. With a shift towards much more broadleaf planting, it represents a huge sea change for the foresters. In a much appreciated move, the FC is actively seeking our input and expertise. We hope to see more detail and nuance as the plan is further developed this year, with public consultation this Autumn. Much of this committee’s work over the last decade has been preparing research and evidence to bolster the NFA’s vision for the inclosures as presented in Recovering Lost Landscapes, and has been aided further by changes in government policy as evidenced in the Lawton Report and the Policy on Ancient Woodland Sites.

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.

Busketts and Felling Licenses

In Autumn 2015, Neil Sanderson, one of our leading ecologists, spotted veteran and woodland edge trees marked for felling at Busketts Lawn. Whilst this had been done as part of a scheme to improve grazing – and had been granted a felling license – many trees of value, but not detrimental to the lawn, had been marked including glade edge Oaks, nectar source Crab Apples and Hawthorns.

The NFA had not previously been aware of the plans due to the sparse detail available in the list of works we receive through our membership of the Open Forest Advisory Committee, and the equally slim notification of the felling licenses through the parish councils. To the FC’s credit they did manage to arrange a site visit before the works commenced and took on board some of our advice. Whilst from our point of view this was damage limitation rather than success – we saved some trees and shrubs and a large mature Oak – we were also able to make suggestions that were accepted as useful going forward: we got some Oak pollarding, preventing loss of grassland to shade, not previously considered as a tool in lawn management; and by cutting back Holly from former wood edge trees, we agreed to maintain a transition from lawn to wood, both aesthetically, and functionally within the habitat, desirable.

We will be pressing for improvements in the way the FC and Natural England notify felling licenses and document works of this type on the open forest.

New Forest Water Blitz 2016

We did a trial email shot to our members looking for volunteers for the New Forest Water Blitz, a survey taking place during the four week period of 12th March – 10th April 2016. This was a trial run survey taking place as part of the larger Clean Water for Wildlife project. The NFA are promoting this study as a member of the New Forest Catchment Development Group, a clean water initiative between the National Park and the Freshwater Habitats Trust. Over twenty volunteers administered very easy to use water test kits, collecting two samples from assigned locations within the New Forest during the four week period.

Whilst nearly all the Association’s work is done through our council and committees by volunteers from our membership, this was the first time we were able to offer a small scale, “Citizen Science” style volunteer opportunity to engage our members. We were very heartened by the enthusiastic response we received. There will be further opportunities for all to volunteer both as the New Forest Water Blitz is due to be extended (popular demand!) and as the Clean Water for Wildlife project moves forward.

Naomi Ewald of the Freshwater Habitats Trust will be one of the Association’s guest speakers at our post AGM members event. She will be discussing the New Forest Catchment Project and the New Forest Water Blitz.

Going Forward — Other areas of concern to address in 2016:

Countryside Stewardship Scheme – This new version of the HLS funding will need our particular attention. We were very disappointed in the NELMES consultation that produced Natural England’s Countryside Stewardship Statement of Priorities. As funding may be targeted based on the erratic outcomes of the consultation, we are hoping to have these refined or corrected.

Having received negative feedback, Natural England are duly redrafting the document. The NFA are happier that this is being addressed, but will be reviewing the result still wary of the process that produced the original version.

Night Disturbance from LEDs – As part of our tranquillity remit, we want to see the nocturnal disturbance to wildlife and infringement of the New Forest byelaws cease. With our neighbouring conurbations, it is unlikely that we’d ever qualify as an International Dark Sky Reserve (a designation held by 3 other National Parks), but any steps in this direction would be welcome.

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

NFA Council 2015-16

More of our year in review for this Saturday’s NFA AGM. NFA Chair John Ward reports to our council the issues the NFA has continued to address this year.

“Another busy year for the New Forest Association, with aspirations to do more than we have, but struggling to find enough time and volunteers.”

This could have been the standard opening sentence for the Association’s annual report in recent years and 2015 was no exception, demonstrating how even when life in the Forest is generally going well there is a constant flow of issues, decisions and proposals from various directions causing lively debate at Council meetings.

The issue of fungi picking in the New Forest came to the fore and Council decided that the NFA would campaign strongly and publicly to raise general public awareness about the increasing scale of the problem and to galvanise action by the New Forest National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission. We were pleased when The National Trust set out its intention to ban picking within its own protected areas.

Tranquillity research, power lines, ancient woodland re-stocking, habitat restoration, planning applications and much more have formed the workload delivered through our two functional committees, the Planning & Transport and Habitat & Landscape Committees.

Cycling was very much a topic of vigorous debate in 2014. While the rhetoric calmed down during 2015, the Association’s concern about the harm done by off-road cycling on the open forest away from designated gravel roads is just as strong, including the growing sport of off-road cycling with bright lights during darkness. Hitherto the Forest and its wildlife have been generally undisturbed during the night and the NFA will campaign vigorously to prevent such disturbance.

But it was the potential long term threats to the New Forest from the Government’s various proposals to reform national housing and planning policies that made 2015 an uncomfortable year for those seeking to protect the relatively small New Forest National Park from the impact of development within and around its boundary. Large-scale urban development in and close to the New Forest in the 1970s and 1980s added immensely to pressures on the Forest. Supported by the NFA, a complete planning policy change from growth to restraint followed to take us into the new century. The risk now is that a drive to solve national and regional housing needs may once again threaten the New Forest, if it is delivered though opportunistic and uncoordinated development instead of a robust planning framework that recognises the special qualities of National Parks to provide public well-being through the qualities of their special landscapes.

Ironically, at the same time proposals to extend “Right to Buy” to housing association properties cast doubt about the future for small village housing schemes to meet local needs.

We are fortunate to have well-developed and close working relationships with other National Park Societies and the Campaign for National Parks to assist us in forming co-ordinated responses to national proposals such as these.

A positive boost to the protection of the New Forest came in the form of a £2.89 million Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership grant awarded to the New Forest National Park Authority. We were pleased at their success in securing this funding to restore lost habitats, develop Forest skills and inspire a new generation to champion and care for the New Forest.

We did also manage to enjoy ourselves during the year with some informative walks for members and the annual barbecue. And the Secondary Schools New Forest Conference at Brockenhurst was a great success. The Association’s Education Group is working with the National Park Authority on the 2016 conference.

2017 will be the New Forest Association’s 150 year anniversary and we realised that although that might seem some way off in 2015 we needed to start our thinking now. A small working group was formed and the beginnings of an Anniversary Year Programme have been put together. There will be lots for members to participate in. We also volunteered to host the National Parks Societies annual conference as a part of our year of celebrations. The venue was booked and the date fixed – Balmer Lawn Hotel from 12th to 14th October 2017. There is no doubt that 2016 will be a busy year again.

— John Ward, Chair, New Forest Association

NFA Planning & Transport 2015-16

In anticipation of Saturday’s NFA AGM, we look back at this year’s work. In his annual report from our Planning & Transport Committee, Chair Graham Baker discusses the Government’s now constant shifting of planning goalposts, the threat of the rising property market to Commoning, and inadequate compensation for the thousands of homes planned for the Forest’s borders.

The concord with the National Park Authority has persisted and monitoring applications for development has become a reduced part of the committee’s job. Still we argue about fences, about contribution to affordable homes, about the size and bulk of replacement dwellings, but these are the arguments at the margin – the difference between a man with a job and a man with a passion.

In development control these days we are usually supporting the National Park Authority and are generally on the winning side. Supporting them against Parishes where valuable principles might be sacrificed for local convenience, against applicants wishing to misuse valuable back up pasture, against developers determined to try every avenue to gain a bigger house, against those seeking to overturn decisions at appeal and most of all supporting them in resisting Government attempts to relax the planning rules. Working with the National Park Authority and the Campaign for National Parks, we have succeeded in gaining exemption from many of these relaxations. But proposals come thick and fast; before the results of the last one on significant changes to national planning policy are known, two new consultations have been announced, both containing many dangerous proposals.

The more we succeed in keeping unwanted development at bay, the more attractive the area becomes as somewhere to live and the more house prices have risen. In November 2015, the average property in the National Park cost £531,162 that is 14.2 times the local average wage, a higher ratio even than London. If land-based occupations are to survive the next 25 years we must secure more homes for local people unable to afford market housing.

Driven by a Government determined to ever increase house numbers, our surrounding Planning Authorities have become the main threat to the Forest. Thousands of homes are planned south of Romsey, on the Waterside, at Fawley and East of Christchurch. Everyone recognises that each house built increases recreational pressure on the protected areas of the National Park and everyone agrees that the Authorities should compensate for the damage that it will do. But the compensation is inadequate, and as part of the revision of the New Forest National Park local plan, the New Forest Association will campaign for sensible mitigation contribution used for effective, long term measures.

Chairman – Graham Baker

The NFA’s Planning & Transport Committee does a huge volume of work, not just wading knowledgeably through planning applications which may be of concern, but increasingly, as the objectives of neighbouring Authorities force us to look strategically, they review development, green space provision, mitigation and compensation outside the Forest’s borders. Despite this daunting task, Graham signs off:

“The planning committee is in good heart and up to complement. Burley gives us cause for concern, and if there is someone from the village who would like simply to check planning applications each month for likely problems, I ask them to contact me.”

NFA Fungi Campaign 2015-16

With the upcoming NFA AGM this Saturday, we look back at some of this past years works. Here is an amended excerpt from our Habitat and Landscape Committee’s Annual Report

After years of increasing damage from commercial pickers, and more than two Autumns passing with much talk, but no subsequent action from the Forestry Commission and National Park Authority, the NFA Council took the lead and tasked our committee to develop the NFA’s policy and campaign to protect fungi from foragers.

At both the Verderers Court and National Park Authority meetings in July 2015 we called for the Forestry Commission to impose a ban on fungi harvest on the Crown Lands of the New Forest, the Site of Special Scientific Interest under their stewardship. This is in keeping with existing bans in Epping Forest and at many of the Wildlife Trusts’ Nature Reserves. A blanket ban will assist enforcement by removing the need to prove commercial intent and weigh amounts against the arbitrary allowance. With discretion Keepers could target those who are over harvesting, whether for personal or commercial use.

The National Trust imposed the ban on the Northern Commons that they manage within the Forest. The Forestry Commission stopped short of the ban, but did engage in a series of disruption events targeting commercial foragers, some harvests were seized and destroyed. We believe the FC missed a trick by not moving forward with prosecutions which should further deter commercial criminals. Foraging fungi for any commercial purpose is seen as theft in the Theft Act 1964. Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 if they have taken any rare protected species they face summary conviction for 6 months + £5k fine, or if Natural England determine that a group of pickers have engaged in potentially damaging operations on SSSI, fines of up to £20k may be levied.

The ban would also be in keeping with guidelines the FC itself subscribed to in 1998, the Wild Mushroom Pickers Code of Conduct published by English Nature, which says culinary foraging is inappropriate on SSSI and National Nature Reserves. That code is also the source of the supposed 1.5kg limit (which has no basis in law) which there is suggested “per foray” for culinary harvest, but which the FC have erroneously repeated as “per person / per day”, ignoring the code’s SSSI prohibition. The NFA have asked that all FC leaflets and posters compounding this error be withdrawn until a revised code is established.

The Forestry Commission’s latest The New Forest Essential Guide for 2016 has this more helpful message:

“Fungi: The New Forest is a Site of Special Scientific Interest with over two thousand varieties of fungi, many of which are rare and internationally-important species. We appeal to people to look, but don’t pick. Commercial harvesting is not permitted and foray leaders must obtain a licence. We’re reviewing the guidelines on picking for personal consumption. New restrictions will be trialled to lessen the impacts on this very special habitat, visit or call 0300 067 4601 for the latest details.”

However, the website referenced above has yet to be updated and carries the unreviewed guidelines and leaflets. This includes the 1.5kg “personal limit” and noisome parenthetical congratulations to those treating it as a goal rather than a limit: ” (and if you’ve found this much you’ve done well!) “. This hardly gibes with the more welcome “look, but don’t pick”. Baby steps? Perhaps.

The NFA have continued to press for a new code of conduct, and with the full support of the members of the National Park Authority will be included in the stakeholders tasked with its development. We have stressed that a plan needs to be in place by the New Forest Show 2016 to have coordinated messages and actions for this Autumn. We will also campaign for improved protection when Wildlife laws are next revised (the Law Commission has published a draft, we do not know when it will be brought forward).

The display of fungi in the New Forest is as essential a part of the experience of Autumn in this protected habitat as the pannage pigs, and should remain for all to see and enjoy.

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

Decline in New Forest Ground-Nesting Birds

Much of the New Forest National Park is a Special Protection Area (SPA); a strictly protected site classified in accordance with Article 4 of the EC Birds Directive. The site qualifies under the EC directive by supporting breeding populations of European importance of dartford warbler, honey buzzard, nightjar and woodlark.

In October 2015, the New Forest NPA published the final version of the report Research recommendations relating to impacts of recreation on ground-nesting birds in the New Forest National Park. It reported that there had been a “marked decline” in the population of woodlarks and a “marked decline” in the population of dartford warblers in recent years. The report is available at   *

New Forest Association is alarmed at these findings and concerned that plans for thousands of more homes on the New Forest’s borders could make the situation worse. Mitigation arrangements are totally inadequate; at the extreme a two million pound mansion a few yards from the SPA makes a one off payment of £1250 for the damage its occupants will do forever.

New Forest Association is campaigning for the New Forest to line up with the Thames Basin Heaths SPA with no new dwellings within 400 metres of the SPA and variable and more substantial contributions from further away. And that these mitigation contributions are used for effective measures that last in perpetuity.

Any help you can give in publicising this unacceptable situation will be appreciated.
— Graham Baker

* Final updated 18/09/2015 Recommended Citation: Liley, D. & Lake, S. (2015) Research recommendations relating to impacts of recreation on ground-nesting birds in the New Forest National Park. Unpublished report by Footprint Ecology for the New Forest National Park Authority.

Secretary of State Overrules Appeal Inspector’s Recommendation and Turns Down An Application for 5 Megawatt Solar Array in New Forest National Park

The NFA rigorously opposed the original application for an array in Vaggs Lane Hordle believing that this solar array would be a landscape spoiler, that it would be an inefficient use of the precious land of this National Park and that particular protection is needed for this corner of the Park nearest to the Bournemouth/Poole built up area. The application was refused by the National Park Authority. It was then appealed and the inspector recommended that the appeal be allowed. The appeal was recovered for the Secretary of State “because the appeal site lies within the New Forest National Park and he wishes to consider himself whether or not the development proposal would have any impact on the National Park.” The Secretary of State disagreed with the Inspector’s recommendation and dismissed the appeal.

The full report may be found at: – with conclusions summarised in paragraphs 21 to 23:-

Overall balance and conclusions
21.The Secretary of State concludes that, as the appeal scheme conflicts with CSDM Policies CP4 and CP5, it cannot be regarded as being in accordance with the development plan; and he is satisfied that, in accordance with paragraph 215 of the Framework, the relevant CSDM policies can be given full weight as being consistent with the Framework. Hence, in accordance with section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, he has gone on to consider whether there are sufficient material considerations to indicate that the appeal should nevertheless be determined otherwise than in accordance with the development plan.

22.With regard to the material considerations in favour of the scheme, the Secretary of State gives substantial weight to the contribution the scheme would make to the Government’s commitment to mitigate climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and helping to improve the security of energy supply. He also gives moderate weight to the bio-diversity benefits of the proposed scheme and to the benefits to the local economy from long term farming security and farm diversification. However, against those considerations, the Secretary of State considers that, as a “major development”, the scheme fails to accord with the terms of the Framework, particularly paragraphs112 and115-116, and he gives substantial weight to that conflict. He also gives substantial weight to the loss of 3.9 ha of BMV land for the appeal scheme in view of the lack of compelling evidence to justify that loss; and moderate weight to the negative impact of the proposal on visual amenity with no weight to the potential reversibility of the proposal.
23.Overall, the Secretary of State considers that the benefits of the scheme are outweighed by the factors weighing against it and that there are no exceptional circumstances that would nevertheless justify the scheme. He therefore concludes that there are no material considerations in favour of the proposal of sufficient weight to justify determining the appeal other than in accordance with the development plan.

Graham Baker
NFA Planning