The New Forest is in theory protected by byelaws that aim to conserve the forest, preserve its tranquillity, and regulate recreational use. However, the increase in local recreational pressure associated with COVID-19 travel restrictions has highlighted issues around limited public awareness of the byelaws and a general lack of enforcement by the appropriate authorities; this is not a new problem, but it is generating increased concern amongst the local community.
Last year the Friends of the New Forest produced a Report highlighting the various negative impacts caused by recreational activities on the Special Qualities of the New Forest and provided this to the relevant forest authorities to inform future management action. Unfortunately, although we recognise that most forest users do behave responsibly, the actions of a minority (who deliberately or unwittingly breach the relevant byelaws or guidance) are unfortunately continuing to contribute to some of the impacts outlined in our report.
It is also clear that the byelaws that cover the largest areas of the New Forest, specifically the Forestry Commission byelaws (established 1982) and the National Trust byelaws (established 1965) urgently require updating and/or clarifying to take account of the evolving nature of recreational activities; pertinent local examples include the increased use of drones, paramotors, e-bikes, and e-scooters in and around the New Forest in recent years.
The Friends of the New Forest have therefore launched New Forest Byelaw Watch to 1) help promote local New Forest byelaws, guidance, and the New Forest Code, and 2) generate independent data highlighting which recreational and/or commercial activities are of most concern. We are asking forest users to complete a simple recording form between 15 Sept and 31 Oct 2021 and will use the results to inform the relevant authorities of particular ‘hotspots’ of damaging activity, and areas where increased enforcement and/or clarification of existing byelaws may be required; we also welcome any photos showing evidence of negative impacts of recreational activities.
The recording form can be accessed and completed online or downloaded in pdf and doc format from the links below; Forms can be completed and returned digitally on a smartphone or tablet or printed for use in the field and photographed or scanned for return by email. Although we prefer digital submission, we can also accept postal contributions at the address below.
Online Survey Form
Download Survey Form (.pdf version)
Download Survey Form (.doc Version)
The raw data will only be accessible to Council Members of the Friends of the New Forest and will be compliant with GDPR requirements, and only appropriately anonymised and aggregated data and photos will be provided to the forest authorities and released to the public.
Thanks in advance for taking part in New Forest Byelaw Watch and helping to inform the future protection of the New Forest.
Sarah Nield (FoNF Secretary)
A summary infographic of the New Forest Code is provided below,
and links to the full Forestry England and National Trust byelaws are below that: