Top Menu

Archive | News

Damaging and Illegal Activities Revealed in the New Forest

  • 1,100 reports of litter and dog mess
  • 550 reports of cyclists away from designated tracks
  • 500+ reports of cars parked on open forest verges away from car parks
  • 50 reports of livestock being chased and/or attacked by dogs
  • 150 reports of livestock being fed by the public
  • 140 reports of cars blocking access to the open forest
  • Multiple reports of drone flying, wild camping, open fires/BBQs, fly-tipping, and the picking of large quantities of fungi

A survey co-ordinated by Friends of the New Forest has highlighted a lack of understanding and enforcement of New Forest byelaws, and a prevalence of damaging and illegal activities that are harming the special qualities of the New Forest.

The ‘New Forest Byelaw Watch’ was launched by FoNF with the aim of raising awareness of Forest byelaws and generating independent data on byelaw breaches. During a six-week period in autumn 2021, over 2,700 breaches were recorded by FoNF members and volunteers within the National Park, with observers on average noting about 11 individual breaches per visit.

The detailed results indicate that litter and dog mess are ubiquitous across much of the forest, with a combined total of nearly 1,100 reports and highest abundance around popular car parks and along roadsides. There were also 550 reports of cyclists away from designated tracks, and over 500 reports of cars parked on verges away from designated car parks.

Of particular concern were 50 reports of livestock being chased and/or attacked by dogs, suggesting this illegal activity is far commoner than official reports would suggest. There were also 150 reports of livestock being fed by the public, and nearly 140 reports of cars blocking access to the open forest. Other infringements recorded on multiple occasions included drone flying, wild camping, open fires/BBQs, fly-tipping, and the picking of large quantities of fungi. About three-quarters of recorded breaches were on the Crown lands, which cover roughly half of the National Park and are managed by Forestry England. However, a Freedom of Information request to Forestry England by FoNF confirmed that there have been no formal investigations or prosecutions of byelaw breaches since at least 2015 (see here).

“We are grateful to everyone who contributed data to this initiative. The results are startling and show that current forest initiatives focussed on educational activities and volunteering alone are insufficient to protect the forest from harm, and that we urgently require updated byelaws that are appropriately promoted and enforced by the forest authorities.”

John Ward, Chairman

This latest survey follows a detailed report produced by the FoNF and provided to Forestry England last year that documents the various impacts of recreational activities on the special qualities of the New Forest, including internationally protected habitats and species.

0

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.

0

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

 

0

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.

0

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.
0

Byelaw Watch Report 2022

The FoNF 2022 Byelaw Watch Report has been published.

With grateful thanks to the volunteers who contributed to this with their ‘eyes in the Forest’
And those who compiled the results

Click 2022 BYELAW WATCH to read the full report.

 

0

Solent Freeport Requires Regard for the New Forest National Park

We made this statement regarding the Solent Freeport at the New Forest National Park Authority meeting on 20th October 2022.  The Authority agenda included a discussion of the Freeport, its possible bid for announced Investment Zones, and whether the inclusion of the District, including the Park in the “outer boundary” of the Freeport would undermine the Park, or the habitat protections of the Park’s designated land.

Currently the Solent Freeport Board includes representatives of Hampshire County Council, New Forest District Council, Southampton City Council, Portsmouth City Council, Eastleigh Borough Council and Havant Borough Council, and representation from Associated British Ports (ABP), Solent Gateway and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership(LEP).  The National Park Authority is not a Solent Freeport Board member, but attends meetings in a non-voting capacity.

Text below in square brackets [ ] was omitted from the reading to the Authority, in order to remain within the time requirements for public speaking at Authority meetings.  Notes provided for Authority Members, along with this statement, may be read here, and are given as direct footnote links below.  Further context is in THIS article (forthcoming).

Solent Freeport

The case for excluding NFNPA from a formal decision-making role in relation to the Solent Freeport has not been made. Policy objectives for the Freeport are likely to conflict with both the Statutory Purposes of National Parks, and the 25 Year Environment Plan, notably regarding responsibilities for the protection, conservation, and natural capital enhancement of environmentally sensitive areas. In those respects, the New Forest is of unique global importance which must be recognised. We are deeply concerned by the prospect of further pressure on the special qualities of the National Park due to the proposed Solent Freeport. Simple retention of an ordinary planning regime[i], as promised by New Forest District Council (NFDC), will not ease our concerns, for these reasons:

  • The stated aim for the Port expressed by the Solent LEP [in the consultation [ii]], proponent and Board Member of the Port, is to establish a “Virtual Planning Authority”. They suggest Freeports remove “existing environmental regulations” they claim limit incentives to investors.
  • The current Planning and Infrastructure Bill[iii] and the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill may expand the definition of Nationally Significant Infrastructure Planning removing local oversight.
  • The ambition of ABP to develop the Dibden Bay SSSI [seen as “inevitable” by their previous chief exec[iv]].
    • They’ve already registered the site for both Tax and Customs [as a fait accompli].
    • NFDC adopted ABP’s label “ABP Strategic Land Reserve” ignoring its habitat designation.
  • The Government’s initial response to the NPA’s queries about the Freeport implications[v] does not mention the Duty of Regard and states only that NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] policy for protected landscapes will continue to apply within Freeport outer zones, excluding the Dibden Bay SSSI.
  • The Duty of Regard has already been eroded by NFDC in their most recent local plan. [as noted by the RSPB and HIOW Wildlife Trust, the unsustainable level of housing development and inadequate mitigation for pressure on the Forest] [vi]
  • Hampshire County Council and other proponents for the widening of the A326 [in part to support the Freeport development] have ignored the consequences to wildlife corridors and public access, showing lack of Duty of Regard. [vii]
  • RSPB, and Campaign for National Parks have expressed concerns about Investment Zones and Freeports. [viii]

The Duty of Regard is key, the National Park will be negatively impacted by Freeport development. The National Park should have oversight through direct representation. The overlapping private interests of ABP, Solent LEP and Solent Gateway should not have disproportionate control.

[The notion that the Freeport could be a useful source of mitigation funding from developments is deeply flawed. The current level of development already in the NFDC Local Plan is well beyond the potential for mitigation. Development beyond these levels involves accepting irreversible damage which cannot be balanced by such small benefits. [ix]]

The Dibden Bay SSSI, an important site in its own right, is a vital support to winter waders that breed on the Open Forest. Its protection, as well as the many other sites for nature connectivity, wildlife corridors and green infrastructure, should be part of the priorities for this Authority outside the park, where nature doesn’t recognize administrative boundaries.

We ask this Authority to thoroughly weigh the implications on the Park’s Purposes, before supporting a Freeport or Investment Zone, or any planning regime that undermines the Duty of Regard. And if it goes forward, regardless of where the boundaries are drawn, the Authority should demand a place on the Board of the Freeport as a full voting member, and pursue a clear policy to block the destruction of the Dibden Bay SSSI.

0

Declaration from National Parks Movement to Strengthen Protected Landscapes

The annual National Parks Societies Conference was held in Snowdonia last week.

Recognising the present scale of the nature and climate emergency, the Friends of the New Forest proposed a resolution calling on governments in England and Wales to give Protected Landscapes (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) their full backing in legislation. This was unanimously agreed by all National Park Societies and Campaign for National Parks who signed the joint declaration below

Declaration from the National Parks Movement:

At a time of nature and climate emergency, we must retain and strengthen the laws and policies which protect the Protected Landscapes of Wales and England. This means there must be:

  • No weakening, or removal, of vital European legislation such as the Habitats Regulations;
  • Effective schemes of support for farmers and land managers which safeguard rural livelihoods, reinforce nature’s recovery, and promote public access; and
  • A principle of safeguarding the additional planning protections which are crucial for Protected Landscapes.

We need to and will strongly support governments’ commitments to new purposes, duties and powers to ensure that Protected Landscapes can deliver more for nature, climate and people in future.

The statement was signed by the following organisations:

Campaign for National Parks, The Broads Society, Snowdonia Society,
Dartmoor Preservation Association, The Exmoor Society, Friends of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Friends of the Brecon Beacons, Friends of the Dales, Friends of the Lake District, Friends of the New Forest, Friends of the Peak District, Friends of the South Downs, North Yorkshire Moors Association

Delegates at the Conference (photo CNP)

This declaration will be used to engage with Parliamentarians and demand they do more to back National Parks and ensure their protection.

John Ward, Chairman of the Friends of the New Forest agreed with Dr Rose O’Neill, Chief Executive of the Campaign for National Parks that it was fantastic to see the National Parks movement in England and Wales come together to make a powerful, positive case for why these landscapes matter.

Unfortunately the signals we are getting from the UK Government in Westminster suggests they are heading in the wrong direction. Any government who is seen to be undermining these aspirations risks suffering a political price at the next election.

Just CLICK HERE to register your support for this Declaration

 

0

Verderers Announcements & Decisions : Cycling

This month’s announcements about cycling responds to a few of the preliminary observations from this year’s Byelaw Watch shared in the September Court by our Vice Chair, Gale Pettifer.

At our last court the New Forest Association reported from its byelaw watch over 700 instances of cycling off the way marked routes in a period between 25th July and 31st August this year.

Regrettably this came as no surprise. The Verderers have over many years expressed to Forestry England their concerns about the ever increasing amount of cyclists who regularly trespass off the approved cycle routes. In recent months we have expressed those concerns both to the Deputy Surveyor and his team and direct to the Chair of Forestry England, providing information about the scale of the issue and its consequences. The result of the New Forest Association’s recent byelaw watch, emphatically reinforces what has been said by the Verderers to Forestry England many times. This is an issue which can no longer be treated by Forestry England as a low priority.

In commenting on this it is all too easy to characterise the Verderers as anti-cycling. That is emphatically not the case. The Verderers are very well aware of the many benefits of cycling and support the existence of the Cycle network. I am not the only Verderer who makes use of the network from time to time.

It is therefore a good time to set out the Verderers’ position in relation to cycling off the approved cycle routes.

Cycling on the Forest is prohibited by Forestry England byelaws (byelaw 6). This is to be contrasted with the position of those on foot who have access to the Forest by right as do horse riders. The grazing stock is also there by right and delivers enormous conservation benefits. The grazing stock has shaped and continues to maintain the Forest’s mosaic of rare, interesting and important habitats.

The Forest of course provides excellent recreational opportunities. However it is also a working forest and an area of remarkable conservation importance and rarity designated as a SAC (Special Area of Conservation) and SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). Critically it still retains strong elements of a wilderness with areas where both nature and the stock are left largely undisturbed.

In 2015 a study resulted in the drafting of a map, identifying the level of disturbance across the Forest. The Forest was divided into 5 zones. Zone E was the most tranquil, where there were no well-used cycle tracks and no moderate passive recreation. Zone D in which there were no camp sites and there was no intensive passive recreation. Zone C had no all-year campsites greater than 150 pitches. Zones B and A were the least tranquil. The Tranquil Areas map has been used to reduce and where possible eliminate, disturbance from activities, including organised recreational activities which would significantly impact nature conservation in those sensitive areas.

However, the advent of the mountain bike and now electrically assisted bicycle means that it is ever easier to access vast areas of the Forest. They have contributed to the significant increase in the number of cyclists all over the Forest. Headlamps now throw a beam many metres ahead which can be seen from far away; these facilitate more and more night time cycling, apparently regardless of the impact on nocturnal animals. Tyres often incise into the soft ground, contributing to erosion and as one track becomes impassable another is created. As more and more houses are built within easy driving distance of the Forest the recreational pressure, including cycling, will only increase.

The Verderers recognise that different types of route cater for different cyclists. Some wish to travel from A to B. Others wish to use a circular route returning usually to the car park from where they started. The Verderers do not rule out participating in a review of the Cycle network but such a review must be against the backdrop of control of illegal off route cycling. In any such review preservation of the tranquil and undisturbed areas, links to the car parks, the interests of nature conservation and protection of the fragile environment together with the interest of the commoners must be taken into account as well as the interests of those who wish to use the Forest for recreation.

The issue of concern is not that of the cyclist who gets lost, or the family who inadvertently strays from the network. The issue is those who persistently flout the byelaw. Dog owners whose dogs harass or attack stock are dealt with by the police as are those who drive motor vehicles over the Forest without permission. The Verderers ensure that the commoners comply with our byelaws. Forestry England must ensure that its byelaws are policed and enforced. That is the only right and proper course and it is in the best interests of the Forest.

The Verderers therefore call upon Forestry England to take the following actions: –

  1. Acknowledge that off route cycling is widespread.
  2. Ensure that both the free maps and paid for cycle maps are fit for purpose so that cyclists can easily identify and follow the approved route.
  3. Sign each and every carpark under its control so that the public is clearly informed as to whether or not cycling is permitted and possible from that car park.
  4. Ensure that online mapping records the approved cycle network and unapproved routes are removed.
  5. Review and if necessary, improve the physical way marking of the approved routes.
  6. State publicly, including in this forum, firstly what its policy is in relation to enforcement of its byelaws, and secondly that it will prosecute persistent offenders.
Announcements shared with kind permission of the Verderers.
This month’s other announcements regarding Dogs, Brambles, Fees & New Verderers are on this link.
In November 2017 we made a presentment stating our concerns and objections to a medium sized night time cycling recreation event which was sponsored by a head lamp manufacturer.  We were concerned about the effect on wildlife and livestock by the unprecedented size of the nighttime event, which had not been notified to Natural England, and the promotion of particularly bright lamps (some equal to car headlights) for use on protected habitats.
Collage by Brian Tarnoff.
0

Verderers Announcements & Decisions : Dogs, Brambles, Fees & New Verderers

This month’s announcements include the management and importance of brambles, controlling dogs in bird nesting season, pleas to not feed livestock, marking fees, and the appointments of the Forestry England and Natural England Verderers.

Newly Appointed Verderers – Mark Gammon & Clive Chatters

We are very pleased to welcome Mr Mark Gammon and Mr Clive Chatters to our Court today.

As announced by the Deputy Surveyor in July, Mr Gammon has been appointed by Forestry England as its representative on the Court. Today is, however, Mr Gammon’s first time in attendance. Mark is a retired senior Crown prosecutor who specialised in wildlife crime and animal cruelty offences. Previously he was a solicitor in private practice and he has a good understanding of enforcement. Mark has lived in the Forest for many years and he has a good working knowledge of local wildlife and conservation.

Mr Clive Chatters is Natural England’s newly appointed Verderer. Mr Chatters brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience of conservation issues in the New Forest and beyond. He has a considerable understanding of the pressures arising from the need to balance the interests of agriculture, conservation, and recreation in the Forest.

We are confident both will prove to be a very valued member of the Court.

Dogs

Peter Roberts made a presentment in July, urging this Court to pressurise Forestry England into changing its bylaws so that dogs are only allowed on the Forest on short leads in the bird nesting season.

There is no doubt that ground nesting birds are under very significant pressure in the New Forest and indeed elsewhere. Loss of suitable habitat, predation and disturbance are the three key factors. All three need to be addressed satisfactorily to ensure that ground nesting birds such as curlew and lapwing can breed successfully.

Mr Roberts objects to the strapline of NFDog “on the Forest, off the lead”. However, it is right to point out that its website also says” Keep to the main tracks when birds are nesting on the ground (usually March to July)”.

The Verderers have been engaging constructively with NFDog for some time to support and encourage its work which seeks to ensure that all dog walkers exercise their dogs responsibly when on the Forest. That engagement continues and our discussions will focus on, amongst other things, the need to achieve maximum protection for ground nesting birds in the nesting season from disturbance by dogs.

The Verderers do not rule out the possibility of seeking a change in Forestry England bylaws at a future date.

Brambles

Concern was expressed by Mary Gray about the extent of brambles on the open Forest. The Verderers agree that bramble needs to be managed on the Open Forest especially where it encroaches on valuable grazing. I understand that Forestry England manage brambles and will continue to do so. Browsing by deer and commoners’ livestock contributes to that management. It may be of interest to those present to know that there are many species of bramble in the Open Forest which straddles two of the richest regional bramble floras in Britain with its heathland and pasture woodland soils.

Marking Fees For 2023

After much debate and discussion in Committee, we regret that marking fees for 2023 will have to increase.

The marking fee for ponies, cattle and donkeys on the Forest

will be increased by £2.00 to £26.00 per head.

The Common rate of marking fee, for those commoners whose animals qualify, will be £13.00 per head for ponies and donkeys and £3.25 per head for cattle, which is 1/8th of the Forest fee.

Marking fees for sheep also increase by £2.00 per head. Sheep on the Forest will therefore be £10.00 per head and on the Commons, it will be £5.00 per head.

The marking fees for pigs remain unchanged. On the Forest they are £4.00 per head and on the commons £2.00 per head.

Announcements shared with kind permission of the Verderers.
This month’s other announcement regarding Cycling is  on this link.
Image notes: Mark Gammon’s WWF Lifetime Achievement Award for his work on wildlife crimes for the Crown Prosecution Service from the 2021 Wildlife Crime Enforcers Conference,  Bramble image excerpted from : 2005-07-05 Renardeau (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic), the cover of “Heathland” by Clive Chatters (one of his two current volumes for the Bloomsbury Wildlife imprint); Clive is currently Chair of the Habitat and Landscape Committee of the Friends of the New Forest.  Other image elements and collage by Brian Tarnoff.
0

Byelaws Watch Survey – Preliminary Findings

Friends of the New Forest made a presentment to the Court of Verderers at their meeting on 21st February in order to provide some feedback on findings from this 2022 survey, which ran until the end of August 2022

Presentment to the Court of Verderers – 21st September 2022

The Verderers may be aware that the Friends of the New Forest recently undertook a ‘Byelaws Watch’ survey. This was separated into two elements. The first was a free-ranging survey, which ran between the 25th July until the 31st August 2022; and the second was a fixed-site survey at specific “honey-pot” locations across the Forest, conducted on the August Bank Holiday.

The results of both studies will be published shortly but, in the meantime, I wanted to share a snapshot of some of the breaches reported to us from the initial, free-ranging survey. These demonstrate not only the activities that threaten the special qualities of the New Forest but also reveal some harmful attitudes towards its landscape, commonable livestock, and wildlife.

Around 100 volunteers submitted records to us, and between them they recorded over 5,000 individual incidents that were either breaches of the byelaws or were other activities likely to be harmful to the Forest. The most frequently reported incidents were:

  • Ubiquitous dog waste and litter (with over 1,000 individual items recorded for each)
  • Widespread cycling off the cycle network (over 700 instances)
  • Prevalent petting or feeding of ponies and donkeys
  • Uncontrolled verge parking.

Of significant interest, are reports of technologically assisted activities that are now widespread and were either not envisaged when the current Forestry Commission Byelaws became a Statutory Instrument in 1982 or have increased considerably since then not withstanding their prohibition . These include the use of e-bikes, drones, metal detectors, and paragliders.  Indeed, the advance of bicycle headlamps in recent years, for instance, has meant that night-time cycling is now much easier than it was back in the 1980s, and consequently night-time cyclists were recorded during our Byelaw Breach Survey.

Other worrying observations were of the use of disposable BBQs and discovery of campfires, which occurred during a period of prolonged and severe drought. High profile media campaigns about the dangers of wildfires are either not cutting through or are simply being ignored. Although not as widespread as other bylaw breaches, every instance that involves a disposable BBQ or campfire on the open Forest represents a potential catastrophe of unimaginable proportions to the landscape, commonable livestock, and wildlife.

Our volunteer recorders also provided a worrying description of activities, behaviours, and attitudes, occurring across the Forest, which included instances of aggression, such as:

  • birds, deer, and livestock being chased by out-of-control dogs; and,
  • a pony being physically struck because it was stood in the road

It was also worrying to discover that some volunteers who attempted to engage with cyclists they met off the cycle network were, at best, simply ignored, while others experienced hostile responses such as,

  • ‘the forest is big enough for everyone’
  • ‘I’ve lived here all my life’
  • ‘I won’t get caught’

One unfortunate volunteer even reported to being verbally abused.

(Similar aggressive responses from the owners of dogs that were out-of-control were also recorded.)

Of course, the problem is that most people committing breaches in the byelaws do not accept that they are doing any harm; and because of this they accept no responsibility – particularly if they’ve always done it or seen other people do it.

If we want to change the attitudes of these people, we have to change their behaviours. The Friends of the New Forest would, therefore, encourage that the statutory bodies take further steps to educate the public on the importance of preserving this precious landscape and, importantly, to follow this up with rigorous enforcement of breaches in the byelaws.

While one of the off-track cyclists asserted that the “Forest is big enough for everyone”, we would argue that it is actually an important ecological habitat and heritage landscape under ever increasing pressure, and any steps to safeguard it, including enforcing the byelaws as part of the overall management strategy, are long over-due.

Dr Gale Pettifer – Vice Chair: Friends of the New Forest

 

 

 

0