||We highlight our concerns with Forestry England’s tender for their campsites on the protected habitat of the New Forest to the July 2022 meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority. We also ask the National Park to reaffirm its commitment to working with their partners in Forestry England to deliver existing agreements and to insist that future alterations to the campsites be subject to planning under its control.
The New Forest is the only National Park in the United Kingdom with camping facilities built directly on the protected habitats their designations are meant to conserve. Only one other Park in England allows camping on SSSI: Dartmoor’s very limited backpack camping (two nights and only small tents that may be carried to site on foot).
The campsites on the Crown Lands were established at a time when the then Forestry Commission were presumed to be exempt from planning (although it is unclear as to whether these exemptions are permitted under the New Forest Acts), when the New Forest SSSI had only recently been notified (1959 the same year that the FC and NCC signed a joint minute of intent recognising the importance of the New Forest as an area of National Nature Reserve Status), and did not yet have the stronger protections of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and subsequent SAC(2005), SPA (1993) and Ramsar (1993) designations.
These campsites would not be permitted if proposed today; if the Verderers had consented to these campsites, it is unlikely that they would now allow them.
We welcome Forestry England’s (and Land Scotland) move to change management of their campsites as an opportunity to review the provision in the New Forest. However, we have concerns about the tender which we have raised with FE. The Heads of Terms make no reference to the role of the Verderers or the rights of Commoners, nor do they set out obligations to deliver the statutory and policy commitments arising from designations.
Other inappropriate elements include :
- ‘year-round’ camping
- annual allowance for tree removal
- on-site shops
- pre-pitched “glamping” (both in conflict with agreements previously made with the Verderers);
- no reference to the liabilities posed by free roaming semi-feral livestock.
Natural England’s SAC Management Plan for the New Forest 2001 prescribed the closure or relocation of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood, and Longbeech; part of a legally agreed SSSI management scheme. In February 2010, this National Park adopted the Recreation Management Strategy 2010 – 2030 to which the Forestry Commission agreed as partners. This included actions to audit campsite provision, and phased removal of the damaging sites [i]. Nevertheless, these sites are included in the current FE tender.
This National Park should encourage Forestry England to honour their agreements before engaging in new arrangements for the campsites. You must also make the case to government and the nation that the protection of this designated National Park should not be reliant on revenue from an activity unquestionably damaging to its habitat.
When we had completed our 2010 Baseline Survey of the campsites [ii], we received verbal assurances that any future alterations would be subject to planning permission from this Authority. We would like this Authority to reaffirm your own agreements and produce an unambiguous policy consistent with delivery of your first purpose and the Sandford Principle.
||ENDNOTES and Attachments provided to the members of the National Park Authority.
Also please find attached 1) our letter to Forestry England of 22 June 2022, 2) our Presentment to the Verderers Court of 15 June 2022
Tender for the operator of New Forest campsites: Our Letter to Forestry England
Campsites on the Crown Lands: Presentment to Verderers Court June 2022
[i] New Forest National Park Recreation Management Strategy 2010 -2030, February 2010, pg.57
||Priority actions for the next five years
6.4 Camping and caravanning
- 6.4.1 Audit the provision of camping in the National Park and maintain the unique experience the New Forest offers; sustain the significant contribution it makes to the local economy whilst ensuring that campsite management does not adversely damage the Park’s special qualities.
- 6.4.2 Work with partners to identify potential alternative sites to which the phased relocation of the more damaging campsites (e.g. Hollands Wood, Longbeech and Denny Wood) might be achieved whilst providing a similar quality of camping experience. It must be recognised the difficulties in finding alternative sites; many issues will have to be taken into consideration, including the local economy, transport links, access to facilities (e.g. villages, shops) and the camping experience.
- 6.4.3 Work with campsite operators to reduce the environmental footprint and impact of camping and caravanning on sensitive areas to enhance landscape and visitor satisfaction by:
- preventing the extension of existing and development of new camping and caravan sites.
- restricting the spread of new supporting built facilities.
- ensuring that any built facilities that are provided reflect their surroundings.
- securing more sympathetic conservation management of existing camp sites.
- monitoring the condition and operation of the sites on designated areas.
- 6.4.4 Explore opportunities to develop campsites as substitutes to those displaced from the commonable lands as a valuable form of farm and business diversification in robust locations.
- 6.4.5 Provide further guidance on the future management of campsites to reduce the dependency on car use, for example, by encouraging campers to leave their cars on site whilst visiting the National Park and continuing to promote alternatives to the private car for travel around the Forest.
[ii] New Forest Camp site Baseline Survey: Final Report, Jonathan Cox with Mosaic Mapping, July 2010. (https://newforestassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Campsite_Survey.pdf)
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