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Archive | November, 2022

New Forest Campsites Management

Friends of The New Forest have been concerned and critical about many aspects of the process being undertaken by Forestry England to tender for the management of New Forest campsites. The New Forest Agricultural Show Society have been successful in their bid to take on the running of the sites.

At the 16th November 2022 meeting of the Court of Verderers, John Ward, The FoNF chairman, made the following presentment to the Court on behalf of the Association.

MANAGEMENT of NEW FOREST CAMPSITES

For some considerable time our Association has been concerned about the running of Forestry Commission campsites within the New Forest, both in terms of their location and harmful impacts of some campsites contrary to the SAC management plan to which an operator should pay heed, and to various issues regarding their general management.

We also have an ongoing dispute with the headquarters of Forestry England regarding the legal basis on which campsites are run, including the requirement for Verderers’ consent and whether a contract to do so should be a personal licence and not a registerable lease.

Against this background we have hoped that the re-tendering process for appointing a new organisation to manage the New Forest campsites may be an opportunity for a much needed fresh start.

We note that the New Forest Show Society operating as ‘Camping in the New Forest’ is the prospective new manager and that they have applied for the consent of the Verderers.

We have also noted that in their application CINF recognise that for too long there has been damage to the local environment, a lack of respect for the working of the Forest and poor investment in facilities, and that they state:

“Our plan will be to run the sites profitably but with the environment, education, and community at the heart of every decision”.
and that,
“ We will be setting up an advisory group to provide guidance on key decisions and to help guide future aspirations ensuring we respect the New Forest, the livestock and the Commoners.”

CINF recognise that a key aspect of working together would be a full review of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech campsites.

We welcome the opportunity the Forest now has to move forward with a new 10 year period for the management of the campsites by a new licensed operator based within the Forest, and we would hope to play a full and supportive part within the proposed Advisory Group.

We are, therefore, supportive in principle of CINF running the New Forest campsites subject to more information and confirmation of the points that I have outlined.
and
We support the required consent being given by the Court of Verderers


At the same meeting Richard Reeves, who is a member of the FoNF Council but was speaking for himself, made the following presentment.

HOLLANDS WOOD, DENNY WOOD and LONGBEECH CAMPSITES

I hereby object to any lease or similar agreement which provides for the continued operation of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech Campsites (these being those identified as causing serious damage to the Forest habitats in which they are situated and have been flagged as priorities for closure under the 2001 SAC Management Plan.  Both the Verderers and Forestry Commission were signatories to this plan, yet, 21 years later, nothing has been done.

Forestry England (and their predecessors) have had plenty of time to get their house in order but have failed to move forward, instead preferring to kick the issue into the long grass.  Many false and misleading statements have been made in support of keeping the status quo, tellingly by those with their own narrow self-interest at heart.

The suggestion that the potential new tenants would somehow be able to avoid causing further damage is ludicrous, while the argument that the impact of such damage could be offset by an organisation’s good works in other fields is nothing more than whitewashing.  It is akin to claiming to love and care for a child, while selling their organs.

The actions of Forestry England in attempting to find a new tenant for these three sites are hypocritical in the extreme, and hardly demonstrate a safe pair of hands.  Still, I hope and trust the Verderers will side with the New Forest.

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Protect Heathlands by Restricting Sky Lanterns and Fireworks Along With Barbecues

We believe the susceptibility of our heathlands to wildfires is the crux of the proposed public space protection order that seeks to ban barbecues on the Crown Lands.  The order ought to be expanded to restrict sky lanterns and fireworks, which would be just as likely to ignite a devastating blaze.

Our Trustee / Council member, Brian Tarnoff made this recommendation in a Presentment to the Verderers Court 16th November 2022.

NFDC Public Space Protection Orders and Heathland Fires
We broadly support both of the two PSPOs focussed on the Crown Lands, aimed at preventing wildfires, and banning the inappropriate feeding and petting of Forest Livestock.

The Dorset Open Land PSPO [*] which came into force on 1st July 2022 included prohibition on:

a. placing, throwing or dropping items likely to cause a fire,
b. lighting fires, barbeques (including disposable barbeques), Chinese lanterns or fireworks,
c. using items which either (i) cause a naked flame or (ii) pose a risk of fire

The NFDC draft uses much the same language, but excludes restrictions on fireworks and sky lanterns.   All other extant PSPOs targeting wildfires on moorlands, coastal and heathland habitat have the same restrictions as Dorset. [†]

Over 190 councils in England have committed to banning sky lanterns, many have included this ban in their PSPOs.  Both Hampshire County Council and New Forest District Council have banned sky lanterns from events they permit on their own land.  (The National Park says they have banned sky lanterns on their web page on wildfires, but it is unclear if they have any practical way at their disposal to enforce this ban.)

NFDC may balk at inclusion by insisting that they need more direct evidence of the threat from sky lanterns and fireworks to progress the PSPO.  Clearly more than ten other authorities were able to meet the legal requirement for those prohibitions in their PSPOs.  It may be difficult to find specific remains of either fire source in the aftermath of a 200 hectare heathland fire, and if anything we’d rather not have further evidence beyond what a sensible risk analysis from the Fire Service might supply.  There is ample evidence that our heathlands will be susceptible to wildfires, we should guard against every probable source.

Sky lanterns and Fireworks ought to be added to the PSPO:

  • Consistent with best practice as shown in other PSPOs.
  • Consistent with rules of the authority on our Western border, where crossborder incidents have and may occur.
  • Balance of probability that the risk of wildfires to the public outweighs the negligible loss of enjoyment in the public space of these activities.
  • The increasing risk of summer wildfires as the effects of climate change continue.

We hope that the Verderers will consider this in their response to the consultation.

This is part of our series on PSPOs. Other articles include:
Our report on the NFDC PSPOs going forward to consultation on fires/barbecues and feeding/petting ponies.How Our Recommendations for Dog PSPO fit with New Forest Dog Walking Code, and Kennel Club Guidance (forthcoming)

ENDNOTES

[*] The Dorset Open Land Anti-social Behaviour Related Public Spaces Protection Order 2022  https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/w/public-space-protection-orders-for-anti-social-behaviour

Dorset’s BBQ and campfire/wildfire policy and sky lantern and balloon release Equality Impact Assessment

https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/w/bbq-and-campfire/wildfire-policy-and-sky-lantern-and-balloon-release-equality-impact-assessment-eqia-

[†] Other moorland, heathland and coastal habitat wildfire PSPO’s, all with the same restrictions as Dorset’s:

Dorset County Barnsley
Oldham Tameside
Kirklees City of Bradford
High Peak Borough Council Bolton Council
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council
Calderdale West Yorkshire Newark and Sherwood District Council

 

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NFDC Cabinet Advances Prohibitions on Forest Pony Feeding and Barbecues to Consultation

New Forest District Council has sent two draft Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) for the Forest to address fires, barbecues, pony feeding and petting to public consultation.

In the first of a series on PSPO’s we discuss these two orders, our broad support, and initial suggestions.

At the 2nd November New Forest District Council Cabinet meeting, members approved two draft Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) for public consultation.  The first to ban the lighting of fires and use of BBQs (principally on the Crown Lands), and the second to ban the feeding and petting of ponies, horses, mules, and donkeys in the open areas of the New Forest.  We broadly support both of these PSPO’s, and hope that the addition of these restrictions will make a significant difference with these issues. Years of positive messaging have not always succeeded.  These PSPO’s allow fixed penalties notices of £100 to be issued, giving more bite to the byelaws and guidance already in place.

PSPO’s are meant prohibit anti-social behaviours or require certain restrictions on activities within a public space.  Their framework was established in the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.  Each PSPO must undergo public consultation, pertains to specified public space within a defined area, lasts for 3 years before review and repeated consultation.  The Act requires that the target behaviour is detrimental to those in the locality, is persistent, is unreasonable, and justifies restrictions imposed under the order.  Guidance specifies PSPOs should be used responsibly and proportionately in response to issues that cause anti-social behaviour and where necessary to protect the public.

Petting and feeding the Forest’s semi-feral ponies will alter their behaviour, making them more aggressive, apt to bite or kick if subsequently denied human food, and tempting them to spend more time on roads where they are more vulnerable to accidents.  This makes them a danger to the public and themselves.  Their natural diet is grazing the Forest, altering this can lead to digestive problems, and even death from choke or colic.  Misguided, well meaning leaving of carrots, apples, grass cuttings has led to deadly consequences.

At the Cabinet Meeting, Commoners Defence Association Chair Charlotte Lines welcomed the PSPO targeting inappropriate interactions with Forest ponies. “The continued petting and feeding of our legally depastured animals is ever increasing.  Whilst education and signage has its place, and helps to a degree, it’s not been enough in recent years, and now is the time to implement stronger measures.  The Public Space Protection Order will be vital in ensuring the Forest and our animals are protected so that they can continue to provide the essential service of grazing which is needed to maintain and enhance the landscape and the ecological diversity we see today.”

The NFDC documents referred to our Byelaw Watch surveys within their evidence base for this PSPO.  During six weeks in autumn 2021, the survey reported 150 instances of livestock being fed by the public.  This year, between 25th July 2022 – 31st August 2022,  a Forest wide survey including more than 98 observers, reported 187 instances of livestock being fed and/or petted.  Another 66 instances were recorded in our static snapshot survey of Nine popular car parks on August 29th Bank Holiday Monday 10:00 am – 2:30 pm.

We will be refining our response to the upcoming consultation, but for now we’d note that NFDC might take a page from other councils which alongside similar measures for fires and barbecues, have also banned or restricted fireworks.   Over 190 councils in England have committed to banning sky lanterns, many have included this ban in their PSPO’s.  The National Park says they have banned sky lanterns on their web page on wild fires, but it is unclear if they have any practical way at their disposal to enforce this ban.

The 2018 moorlands fire near Stalybridge destroyed 4,500 acres, killed many farm animals, necessitated evacuation of 150 residents. Troops assisted 15 fire services.  The smoke affected air quality across the north west of England.  The Environment Agency estimated the cost from moorland damage at:

  • 26,281 tonnes of carbon dioxide were released, valued at £1.68 million
  • 15,400 tonnes of carbon sequestration capacity was lost, valued at £3.6 million (capacity to take in and store carbon as peat)
  • 1.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (equivalent) is stored in the moor valued at £121 million
  • 7810 tourist visitors per year were lost, valued at £205,000

Afterwards many local authorities in that area (including Tameside, Oldham and High Peak Borough) introduced PSPO’s prohibiting activities carrying a significant risk of causing wildfires: lighting a barbecue, building or lighting any kind of fire, and lighting fireworks or launching sky lanterns carrying an open flame.

The summer 2020 Wareham Forest Fire impacted approx. 220 hectares of heath and woodland, and saw firefighters from all 50 of Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service stations involved in the major incident that lasted over two weeks.  The number of incidents in Dorset relating to BBQs between 2016 and 2020:

2016 –

4

2017 –

3

2018 –

16

2019 –

18

2020 –

74

The Dorset Open Land Anti-social Behaviour Related Public Spaces Protection Order 2022 came into force on 1st July 2022 which included prohibition on:

a. placing, throwing or dropping items likely to cause a fire,
b. lighting fires, barbeques (including disposable barbeques), Chinese lanterns or fireworks,
c. using items which either (i) cause a naked flame or (ii) pose a risk of fire

The language for the NFDC PSPO is almost the same, excepting the exclusion of sky lanterns and fireworks.  With drier hotter summers expected, we should look to prospective threats.  We will join others in encouraging NFDC to include these prohibitions explicitly.

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Dog Public Space Protection Order: A Statement to NFDC Council Cabinet

We add our suggestions for a possible Dog Public Space Protection Orders to our broad support for the two proposed New Forest District Council PSPOs to stop inappropriate interaction feeding of Forest Ponies, and banning fires and BBQs on the Forest.  This statement was given by our Trustee / Council member, Brian Tarnoff in the Public Participation section of the NFDC Cabinet meeting on 2nd November 2022.  Here we include the Endnotes separately shared with Cabinet Members.

This is part of our series on PSPOs.  Other articles include:
Our report on the NFDC PSPOs going forward to consultation on fires/barbecues and feeding/petting ponies.

How Our Recommendations for Dog PSPO fit with New Forest Dog Walking Code, and Kennel Club Guidance (forthcoming)

Dog PSPO

We commend the council for considering Public Space Protection Orders to bring forward measures to address inappropriate interaction with Forest livestock, and banning the use of barbecues and open flames on the Crown Lands.  However, positive control of dogs is a priority widely suggested by the National Park, Forestry England[i] and the Verderers [ii].

East Hampshire District Council successfully brought out a PSPO for controls on dogs in November 2021. [iii]  Similar rules for the New Forest could be mandated which would be entirely consistent with the New Forest National Park’s Dog Walking Code [iv] which is supported by all stakeholders in the New Forest Dogs Forum, including New Forest Dog Owners Group.

Such an order may include:

  • Leads to be mandatory:
    • When their use is requested by any staff of the relevant land managers, including rangers, keepers, agisters, etc. [consistent with FE byelaw 5.xiv.]
    • In areas designated by the land managers of the Crown Lands, adjacent commons or reserves, primarily during ground nesting bird season, but for any other reasonable management purpose intended to reduce disturbance to wildlife or commoner’s stock.
    • Along all stretches of the England Coast Path[v] that are directly adjacent or include within their coastal margin either fields containing livestock, or sites of importance to nature conservation (including SSSI, and/or any areas exempted from coastal margin by Natural England).
  • Out of control dogs worrying/chasing/attacking livestock.
  • Persistent dog fouling of car parks and paths.
  • Littering, including leaving bagged faeces.

The district council should not treat this as a political hot potato.   There is nothing here not already agreed to by the key stakeholders.  While it is possible to roll out PSPO’s separately, you would address an arguably more prevalent set of issues in a more timely fashion, and save on time / expense / effort of separate consultations.

I myself am a dog owner who enjoys the privilege of exercising our dogs under close control on the Forest.  I also represent Friends of the New Forest, a conservation organization, on the New Forest Dogs Forum (as well as the Recreation Management Strategy Advisory Group).  As a responsible dog owner I would like to see measures rolled out that would further positive education.  The Forest is an important remaining bastion for wildlife, and a working forest for commoning. By introducing consequences we may get the attention of those who take our Forest for granted.


ENDNOTES:

[i] From the Forestry Commission Byelaws:

Acts Prohibited on the Lands of the Commissioners

  1. No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners:-
    xii. permit any animal in his charge to be out of control;
    xiv. permit a dog for which he is responsible to disturb, worry or chase any bird or animal or, on being requested by an officer of the Commissioners, fail to keep the dog on a leash;

https://www.forestryengland.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Forestry%20Commission_Byelaws.pdf

[ii] Verderers Minutes Jan 2021 page 12:

DOGS-ON-LEADS
As with many other issues which are damaging to the Forest, enforcing a dogs-on-leads policy would be extremely difficult. Byelaws are an unwieldy and expensive means of enforcing the law and an alternative is badly needed in the Forest. The Official Verderer suggested it would be best to wait for a legally enforceable solution to verge parking to be identified, as a similar solution may be possible to try to reduce the impact of other undesirable activities on the Forest – out of control dogs being one. Meanwhile, the Deputy Surveyor said he will investigate Public Space Protection Orders again to see if there is any way they can be used.

https://www.verderers.org.uk/app/uploads/2021/02/Verderers-Court-Minutes-January-2021.pdf

 

[iii] East Hampshire District Council’s PSPO :

  • requires dog owners in the borough to clean up after their dogs and dispose of the waste responsibly.
  • exclusion of dogs from enclosed children’s play areas.
  • an offence not to put a dog on a lead when instructed to by an officer authorised by the council for that purpose.
  • enables officers to issue fixed penalty notices if a dog owner is not adhering to these rules.

https://www.easthants.gov.uk/dogs-east-hampshire

https://www.easthants.gov.uk/public-space-protection-order-dogs-pdf-5-mb

 

[iv] New Forest National Park’s Dog Walking Code:

Stay safe and respect the environment:

  • Carry a lead for each dog in your care.
  • All dogs must wear collars with ID tags with the owner’s name and address.
  • Park only in designated car parks, not on a verge or in a gateway.
  • Keep dogs on leads in and around car parks and alongside roads.
  • Do not allow your dog to chase or attack livestock, deer or any other wildlife.
  • Keep your distance from grazing animals, especially mothers and their young.
  • Release your dog if threatened or chased by cattle, ponies or other animals to get to safety separately.
  • Dogs must always be under effective control when on a public right of way (for example through farmland); keep them on the path and do not allow them to stray onto adjacent land.
  • Keep your dog to the main tracks when birds are nesting on the ground (usually March – July).
  • Throughout the year, avoid disturbing coastal birds by exercising your dogs away from them.
  • Keep well away from any work taking place such as forestry and pony round-ups, and observe warning signage.
  • Pick up after your dog; put bagged dog poo in a dog waste bin or litter bin, or take it home.

Be considerate to other forest users

  • Always keep all dogs under effective control; if you cannot reliably and quickly call your dog back to you and away from people or other dogs, please keep it on a lead.
  • Keep your dog from jumping up at or approaching other people, especially children, horse riders and cyclists and prevent excessive barking.
  • Keep dogs away from picnics.
  • Show respect for other dogs (especially those displaying yellow as this indicates they need space); if an approaching dog is on a lead, put yours on a lead too.
  • Consider moving aside to let other walkers, cyclists and horse riders past.

https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/things-to-do/walking/dog-walking/dog-walking-code/

 

[v] England Coast Path – Issues relating to Access For Dog Walkers:

There are key issues surrounding the England Coast Path for the Coast of the New Forest.  The scheme inadvertently creates a combination of factors which would allow new, unwelcome access by dogs to protected habitats, and fields used for livestock, including back up land for commoners animals.  This is due to the way in which “spreading room” referred to as “coastal margin” is defined, the way the Ordnance Survey intends to show the land as access land, and Natural England’s uneven guidance and proposals for the New Forest route.

As defined Coastal Margin creates Access Land for the entire seaward side of the Route to the Waters edge.  Where the route is relatively close to the water, this is less of a problem.  However coastal habitats which need to be avoided send the Route inland, and are therefore automatically included in Coastal Margin. This was not defined in Primary Legislation, but as a statutory instrument.  It was not mooted within the consultation on 2009 Act, presumably bringing forward the spreading limitations of the CROW Act 2000.  The 2010 order was discussed for 20 minutes by 17 MPs in Delegated Legislation Committee, and in Lords Grand Committee in 3 hour meeting with 5 other items.  The order has no provisos for the scenario where Coastal Land is Excluded by Natural England, leaving its definition impracticable.

Highcliffe to Calshot route potentially creates @3,500 acres of access land on protected habitats.  This includes an Area of Special Protection which even the landowner may not enter without Natural England permission (Needs Ore Point, Gull Island and Warren Shore east of Gravelly House are given special levels of legal protection being subject to an Area of Special Protection order in accordance with Section 3 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended)). This order makes it an offence to enter this area and to disturb birds. Entry, except by permit, is prevented to Warren Shore and Needs Ore (1 March-31 July) and to Gull Island (at all times of year).

Natural England have the power to Exclude such areas of the coast from Coastal Margin.  However, the Ordnance Survey have decided to publish the route, and to display all potential access land under a “Magenta Wash”, regardless of whether the land has been excepted or excluded.  They’ve suggested that their printed maps will include a very small print caveat that their “depiction of access does not imply or express warranty as to its accuracy or completeness”.  Given that their data is used by both their own and 3rd Party mapping apps, which will not show this caveat, this policy is useless, and undermining to positive control and messaging about the route.  It is estimated that 75% of the New Forest’s coastal margin will be excepted or excluded land, but would be shown as access land.

Natural England’s proposals for the Highcliffe to Calshot are inconsistent with their own guidance on dog controls.  Only 2 stretches have Dogs on Lead Restrictions for habitat protection, for the rest of the route dogs are only required to be under close control off lead.  The lack of livestock based restrictions ignores NE Coastal Access Scheme Guidance:  2.4.6 “under Part 1 of CROW, a person with a dog must keep it on a short lead in the vicinity of livestock”  And Excepted Land status of  “land covered by pens in use for the temporary detention of livestock” has not been applied consistently along the route.  Unfortunately the Natural England guidance for the Coastal Path says that the route be made to the “least restrictive option”, which places the needs of walkers above conservation.   This invention in the guidance is not mandated in legislation, and within a National Park flies in the face of the Sandford Principle which is enshrined in law.

For the entirety of the New Forest portions of the England Coast Path dogs should be on lead for all sections adjacent to:

  • Protected Habitat (whether or not Excluded)
  • Land in use for Livestock Management
  • Coastal Margin leading to either

Potential Impact on Features of Nature Conservation Importance of increased public access to the coast

  • Damaging levels of trampling on vegetated shingle habitats, and adjacent saltmarsh, with erosion of woodland ground flora.
  • Increased levels of disturbance would have adverse impacts on breeding waders and other ground nesting birds including nesting Ringed plover, Redshank, Lapwing and Avocet.
  • Avocet and other waders and wildfowl nesting on lagoons inland of the coast would be vulnerable to disturbance, in particular from dogs.
  • Impacts on nesting Ringed plover would have an adverse effect on the Solent and Southampton Water SPA & Ramsar Site for which this is a qualifying species.
  • Wildfowl & waders feeding and breeding on grazing marshes, lagoons and improved grassland fields inland of the coast would be very vulnerable to disturbance from public access.
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