Top Menu

Archive | Planning

Presentment: Latchmore Brook: Part 1: An Apology

As the Latchmore Brook planning application may be decided before the next month’s Verderers Court.  The NFA find that we owe everyone an apology.

We’ve never made a secret of our support for the Forestry Commission’s wetland restorations.  But clearly, in some areas, we haven’t made our case often enough, publicly enough, or possibly well enough.  For that we must apologize to the whole of the Forest.

We apologize to the Verderers, I know you don’t need anyone to leap to your defence, but you have been impugned, under the snide accusation that everyone involved in, or indeed supporting the project, would knowingly harm the Forest.  The Verderers who many of us regard as the conservative line in the sand, that we are so fortunate have powers granted by the New Forest Acts.  You have supported this project in the various forms its taken when it has come before you.

This is one of the Leaders of the opposition’s most poisonous assertions, that the process itself, is somehow tainted by a cosy “partnership”.  The National Park Authority, Verderers and Forestry Commission are only “partners” in the project inasmuch as they are the statutory bodies obviously required to be on the project board.  It only benefits the FC as they fulfil their legal obligation to respond to the Natural England condition assessment of the SSSI, and only benefits the Park as it successfully fulfils their statutory purposes “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area”.  The NPA is represented on the board by their Chief Exec Alison Barnes.

The NPA’s Planning Committee is made up of 14 of the 22 members of the Park Authority.  The Committee is mostly (12) local Parish, Town, District and County Councillors and 2 Secretary of State Appointees [through DEFRA].  As with any Planning Authority they have strict criteria they must adhere to, and whilst they may seek advice from the civil servant staff of the Authority including their own ecologists and the Chief Exec, the decisions are theirs.  No previous scheme has been refused because, like the present one, they are worthwhile restorations to improve the habitat, and have met the criteria for planning approval.  There is NO conflict of interest as the Chief Exec on the board of the project serves the members of the Authority, not the other way around.

We apologize to the Forestry Commission,  and other public servants that have had to bear the brunt of what many would call a hostile work environment.   I’ve heard hissing at Parish Council meetings.  I’ve seen ecologists aggressively berated at consultations and site visits, where they are merely doing their job and explaining, calmly, what the values of these projects are.  The NFA haven’t been able to be present at all occasions and have not intervened enough.  Not that I lay all bad behaviour at the feet of the Leaders of the opposition, but neither do they repudiate such behaviour.

We also apologize to the FC because while the NFA have campaigned for more monitoring built in to all these projects –  We didn’t insist enough to give everyone a larger more convincing body of evidence.

We apologize to the Friends of Latchmore.  Yes, we do. On one level we welcomed them, we disagreed with their conclusions, but a localized voice giving the Forestry Commission a hard time, could have been useful.  The NFA, covering more issues over the whole Forest, can’t be everywhere all the time.  But they are never sceptical enough with their own arguments, they don’t sort the wheat from the chaff, as a result we’ve heard a few valid points hidden amidst a white noise of hyperbole and pseudoscience.

But here’s where the NFA have done the leaders of the Friends of Latchmore and as a result many of their followers a true disservice.  We didn’t challenge them publicly often enough.  We thought there was no point in popping up doing tit for tat when the planning process would make the decision.  We limited speaking here at the Verderers Court mostly to key moments when the Verderers were to decide their views.  In some cases they may even have taken our silence for validation.

We’ve let them steal a march on us in the public perception, but in doing so they have spread an entrenched dogmatic view which stifles debate, because you can’t have a discussion where one side never concedes any of the many valid points that suggest that either this project is worthwhile, or that its challenges are proportionate.

I won’t make up for lost time now.  I have a critique of more than ten errors on just one of their webpages which I’ve sent separately to the Verderers (on our news page).  But I beg the courts indulgence to address a few points…..

— Brian Tarnoff, Chair, Habitat and Landscape Committee
New Forest Asssociation

In a feat of both irony, and good timing thematically, the presenter met the five minute limit for Presentments, and was cut short. The second part shifts emphasis to addressing areas that concern all of us about the project, Wildlife, Material Delivery Routes and Beauty.  The full presentment was distributed in written form to the Verderers, as well as the Annotated Fact Check of the Latchmore Crowdfunding Page.

The Presentment was preceded by a very short thank you to the Forestry Commission for their new Look, Don’t Pick Fungi policy.  We released a fuller response to the policy here.

Rumour, Wishful Thinking, or Fiction?

On August 30th, The Friends of Latchmore issued a press release.  It spoke of an independent review which would cause the Forestry Commission to immediately withdraw the planning application for the Latchmore Brook wetland restoration. It was all their Christmases come at once.  It was a complete fabrication.

Now, to be fair, it is possible, as we will see, that they were led up a garden path, rather than, as has often been the case, the leaders.

The August 30th Press Release Begins:

Representatives of the Friends of Latchmore are pleased to learn that the Chief Executives of the Forestry Commission and Natural England have agreed that there will be a full and independent review of the wetland ‘restoration’ proposals in the New Forest National Park, including Latchmore Brook. The review is expected to begin towards the end of this year as soon as suitable experts can be appointed.

We now know that, apart from the first nine words, this is untrue.  It then decends into a series of flights of fancy “Forestry Commission and Natural England officials are relieved at the decision, due to the range of complaints…” and “the Forestry Commission is expected to withdraw the Latchmore planning application”.  Then crows a “Spokesperson for Friends of Latchmore said “We are absolutely delighted with the announcement” “.

The alarm bells already ringing became a klaxon.  Much of what had already been said was out of character, to say the least, with what we knew about the resolute intentions of the Forestry Commission to see the planning application through.  But a reaction to an “announcement”?  What announcement?  There had been no announcement.  It appeared that FoL had published their “Press Release” with absolutely no corroboration.

Cue, half a day of tail chasing, FC and NE internally, and many of us on the outside trying to determine a) if there was a shred of truth to this b) where these notions originated.  We confirmed that it wasn’t true, there had been no announcement, and that the rumour would be addressed by the Deputy Surveyor at the Consultative Panel.

At the 1st September, New Forest Consultative Panel, Steve Avery, Executive Director Strategy and Planning for the National Park when asked about the alleged withdrawal of the planning application by the FC, “That hasn’t reached me, or my authority.  We have a live planning application that we will proceed to determine until told otherwise.”  The Deputy Surveyor, Bruce Rothnie categorically denied any intention of withdrawing the planning application or knowledge of an independent review.

[partial transcript of the Consultative Panel]
BR: There’s been a degree of misunderstanding, misinformation that has put out in the last few days and I want to clarify the position.  We remain fully committed to Latchmore Brook Restoration Project and believe the current planning process is the appropriate way to deliver that.  Some of you will remember that some time ago, and certainly before I returned to the Forest, it was agreed that this should be handled through the planning process because of the democratic process it brings.  And that we volunteered to produce an Environmental Impact Assessment which was not required but we felt responded to the concerns of communities around us.  Now we’ve completed that and it is our intention to see that process through.

[referring to the rumour of the independent review]
I have no information to me that there have been any discussions of chief executives coming down to me.  I’m intrigued as to where you got that information.  I have certainly not been able to find any other information provided, down to this level, about that, so perhaps you could explain wherever that’s come from.

[a Burley Parish Councillor, then pressed a leader of Friends of Latchmore, in attendance representing another organization, to make a statement ]

FoL: The information came from the top of Natural England. The press release was “passed”. It was understood that there was to be a joint statement today from the Forestry Commission and Natural England, that there would be a review. There’s obviously some confusion somewhere. I’ve no idea quite how why what’s occurred there, but that’s where the information has come from.

BR: Through what channels …?

FoL: Board of Natural England.

BR: And how was that released to you, your knowledge?

FoL: Through somebody that is in touch with them, and released through the environmentalist that’s been advising them, which I gather Steve’s had a letter from telling him all about it. So I was a little bit surprised that Steve said he didn’t know anything about it so there’s obviously confusion. Let’s say that. I can say no more, that’s the information I’ve had.

[shortly afterwards, Steve Avery was asked for a final comment]
SA:  In the last week, out of 283 representations we received, one of them was from a gentleman called Tom Langton who referred to an imminent review of the scheme and withdrawal of the application, but it’s not grounded or sourced at all as to where that information has come from. The document is on our website, for everyone to see. But, like Bruce, I’d be interested to know where that information has come from, whether from the Forestry Commission or Natural England as alleged.

Tom Langton is the Consulting Ecologist that the Friends of Latchmore hired for their “rapid review” (as we know, rapid is how all the best science is done). After the Consultative Panel closed, panel members speculated that it was possible that either Langton or the Friends of Latchmore had become confused about the review of the New Forest Wetland Management Plan 2006-2016.

The New Forest Wetland Management Plan 2006-2016 published in April 2006, is (and was already at the time of these events) undergoing its end of term review.  The big clue is in the “-2016”.  The review is being done internally within Natural England with the participation of the Forestry Commission.  The Management Plan is available on the New Forest HLS website. It’s difficult to conceive that the leaders of Friends of Latchmore would not be aware of this important document.

In Tom Langton’s letter to the Planners he sites “threats to geological SSSI features and Odonata interests of international importance”, strange when you consider that the British Dragonfly Society (the Odonata in question) support the project. 

It is my understanding that the Chief Executives of the FC and NE have agreed in recent days to undertake an independent inquiry/review of the Latchmore and other restorations and that this will be put in place later this year. …

I think you may agree on reflection that, in any case, the need for a review in effect casts sufficient doubt over the Latchmore plans.

It would be helpful if the application is withdrawn before this Friday 2nd September, the close of the consultation period.

He doesn’t seem to be at any pains to explain how he reached his “understanding”, and at no point does he, in the words of Steve Avery, ground or source his statements.  The actual review is a standard end of plan exercise, not caused by a negating “need”, and as it is a review of the work carried out under the management plan 2006-2016, it won’t include Latchmore as that hasn’t happened yet.  His strangely presumptive sign off continues his baselessly strong suggestion that the application be withdrawn.

On 17th of September, FoL issued a further press release which attempted, poorly, to reconcile statements, allegedly from the statutory bodies.  Strangely it shows that they don’t know the difference between an independent review (denied) and an internal assessment (confirmed).  They seem to be happy that the fact the word “review” was used at all somehow corroborates their original fantasy.  The Lymington Times of 17th September published a story that partially continued to credit the refuted press release, and the Salisbury Journal ran an article which quoted much of it word for word.

On the 19th September a Forestry Commission Communication Manager confirmed several things to us:

  1. The statements about the alleged agreement to an independent review between the Chief Execs of FC and NE, and the withdrawal of the planning application in the Friends of Latchmore 30th August 2016 press release are total fiction.
  2. The Forestry Commission had further denied the statements directly to the reporters from the Lymington Times and the Salisbury Journal before their deadlines for the pieces that ran anyway erroneously continuing to credit those statements.
  3. The New Forest Wetland Management Plan 2006-2016, as mentioned, has already been in preparation — but there has been a decision to speed up finalising this document so that it is done in the next two weeks.  It will then get an extra peer review, as described below:

Statement from Natural England:
Over 140 wetland restorations have been undertaken in the New Forest since 1997. Ongoing reviews of evidence, experience and lessons learnt are an integral part of any long term nature conservation project such as this.

During the past 12 months, Natural England has been working on an Assessment of the evidence supporting wetland restoration projects in the New Forest.

The Chief Executives of the Forestry Commission and Natural England recently agreed to prioritise finalising this Assessment.  The next stage for the Assessment is an independent peer review through Natural England’s Science Advisory Committee.  The objective is to ensure that the evidence and justification for wetland restorations reflect the most recent developments and that any gaps in our knowledge are identified. 

The draft Assessment has been authored by Natural England staff, including a Senior Freshwater Ecologist and Senior Wetland Specialist.  Scoping and commission of the peer review is about to commence and we expect it to be completed during October.  Once completed, the Assessment will be published on the Natural England Access to Evidence website.

Unfortunately this leaves us with some speculation as to how they arrived at this, it looks like Tom Langton may have heard about the existing review of the wetland management plan, put two and two together and came up with five. Then either he potted it up as truth which he presented to his one time masters who embraced it as a dream come true, or passed it on as rumour which the leaders of FoL felt no compunction in passing off, uncorroborated as truth.

Even had an independent review been in the offing, would the leaders of FoL have been happy with any result that didn’t go their way?  As far as we can tell, this project has received more scrutiny than any other project of its kind.  The voluntarily done Environmental Impact Assessment shows the planning authority how well the application fits the required criteria.  The leaders of the FoL won’t be happy with anything except stopping the project.

What’s so dangerous about either of the speculative scenarios is that they both point up the leaders of the Friends of Latchmore “special” relationship with the truth.  We’re used to their lack of fact checking, their disproportionate elevating of minor issues into cause célèbre, and general hyperbole that sadly obscures the few valid points they may raise.  We have, and will continue to point these out here and elsewhere.  But this feels like new territory, releasing uncorroborated rumours as Press Releases, with their usual unearned authoritative tone, and even after public denial, getting two local media outlets to swallow this guff.  That’s steering towards the land of fabrication.

That brings us onto a third possibility.  They intentionally cooked this up with their lackey Langton, to press for what didn’t already exist, and perhaps lead everyone on a merry chase.  Are they that calculating, canny?

So you judge, Rumour, Wishful Thinking, or Utter Fiction?

(although noted within the text, speculative passages have been italicised)

Fact Checking Our Friends

The Friends of Latchmore have created a Crowdjustice crowd funding page to fund future legal challenges to the restoration project at Latchmore Brook.  It contains some of their most problematic statements to date.  The Crowdjustice site have told me that they do nothing to verify any case promoted through their “platform”, that this is entirely up to the claimants and their legal representatives.

Some of these mistakes might be forgiven in a neophyte, but the authors of these pronouncements have been dogmatically stating their version of this case for several years, clearly having time and motivation to properly research, so we must take some of these as wilful misrepresentations.  Given that their page is asking people to donate money to their cause, I should hope that the more sensible leaders of the Friends of Latchmore ought to feel a little bit queasy over these inaccuracies, which could lead to allegations of a scam.

While we don’t believe there is malicious intent, even the possibly unintentional errors have the feel of those grasping at straws for virtually anything that supports their case, whilst systematically ignoring everything that doesn’t.  We leave it up to you, dear reader, to decide how innocent these mistakes are.

[What follows is the text taken from the site as seen on 18th September 2016, highlights in bold and numbered annotations are ours.]

Stop destruction of New Forest habitat

 The Forestry Commission, New Forest NPA and the Verderers are spending EU money infilling Forest streams and destroying protected wildlife.

Why this case matters

The Verderers of the New Forest, The National Park Authority and the Forestry Commission have formed a partnership and obtained significant funding running into millions of pounds from the EU to ‘Restore’ wetlands under the Higher Level Stewardship Scheme which is an Agricultural subsidy meant to help British farmers(1), The partners described the whole New Forest National Park as a ‘farm’ in order to claim this money(2) but it has turned into a massive engineering project infilling many streams with waste products(3) in a misguided attempt to restore them, despite their having a wonderful biodiverse habitat supporting many of our rarest and most protected wild species(4).

(1)   The Higher Level Stewardship Scheme is an Environmental subsidy, the key give away is the word Stewardship which indicates a range of Environmental Stewardship programmes.  Entry Level Schemes include subsidy to farmers laying hedgerows, or planting wild flowers beneficial to wildlife on fallow fields.

(2)   The partners would not need to describe the National Park as a “farm”.  The HLS is eligible to both farmers and land managers.  Common land is eligible. The HLS Scheme for the New Forest only applies within the perambulation of the common land, and so does not include the whole National Park.  DEFRA does occasionally treat the New Forest Common lands as one unit, but this is for things like the Single Farm payment scheme (an actual Agricultural subsidy) and to make the cattle movement rules practical for commoning (movement restrictions which apply elsewhere to prevent spread of TB and other vectors would cripple the relative freedom of the cattle on the commons and their movement back to nearby free holdings).

(3)   “Waste products” – this is an utter misrepresentation – the materials for infill include hoggin, washed gravel, clay and heather bales.  The materials used must be approved by Natural England.  Elsewhere the FoL refer to the material as “alien”, the gravel is taken from the same geological strata (on earth) as that on which the New Forest rests.  If we’re being charitable (why shouldn’t we be?), they may have taken the term “rejects” as applied to some of the gravel.  This refers to gravel not pretty enough to be sold in garden centres, but perfectly beautiful enough to be used for infill.  This tabloid culture of infill shaming must be stopped.

The Forestry Commission have just submitted a Planning Application for Latchmore Brook, 3 miles from Fordingbridge, to carry out major works involving 7 km of the stream and importing nearly 100,000 tonnes of infill material.  This area is an SAC, SPA, RAMSAR and SSSI site and thus should be afforded the highest level of protection(4) but the New Forest National Park Planning Authority has not refused any of the previous Planning Applications for these engineering works, as it is one of the partners of the scheme.(5)

(4)    The project is being done at the behest of and with the approval of Natural England.  The Forestry Commission as the land managers of the New Forest SSSI are obligated to remedy the Condition Assessment prescribed by Natural England, part of their duties to monitor and protect SSSI.  Natural England are then asked to give consent to the proposed solution, there is no guarantee of this as the proposal must pass another set of criteria on top of addressing the underlying problem.  Natural England support the project.

(5)    The National Park Authority, Verderers and Forestry Commission are only “partners” in the project inasmuch as they are the statutory bodies required to be on the project board, and only benefits the Park as it successfully fulfils their statutory purposes “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area”.  The NPA is represented on the board by their Chief Exec Alison Barnes.
The NPA’s Planning Committee is made up of 14 of the 22 members of the Park Authority.  The Committee is mostly local Parish, Town, District and County Councillors (12) and 2 Secretary of State Appointees (through DEFRA).  As with any Planning Authority they have strict criteria they must adhere to, and whilst they may seek advice from the civil servant staff of the Authority including their own ecologists and the Chief Exec, the decisions are theirs.  No previous scheme has been refused because, like the present one, they are worthwhile restorations to improve the habitat, and have met the criteria for planning approval.  There is no conflict of interest as the Chief Exec on the board of the project serves the members of the Authority, not the other way around.

The Forestry Commission still uses the same methods for each new project despite substantial evidence of serious adverse effects(6) on the biodiversity of large areas caused by previous failed restoration attempts(7).

(6)    They do not have substantial evidence, in fact, in this short a time after the completion of previous projects, results are promising, but there is no substantial amount of data, which would require years of monitoring to support claims.  An encouraging independent study by the River Restoration Centre and Jonathan Cox Associates, The New Forest Wetland Restoration Review, surveyed post restoration sites from 2004.
(7)    This is one of the laziest and unsubstantiated claims, none of these are considered failed.  Where they claim restorations are failed they provide no evidence or relevant criteria to make this claim.  The best they seem to be able to do, is to take photos of a dry stream bed before the project has finished bedding in and ignore that this is not its constant or eventual state.  Not to mention that Ditchend Brook is situated in a valley where streams notoriously run dry in Summer (oh, we did mention that).

Ditchend Brook in normal conditions
photo courtesy of the Forestry Commission
CAPTION: “Failed Restoration” [Friends of Latchmore photo of Ditchend Brook as a dry stream bed, looking like a gravel path, above you will see instead a less shocking photo of Ditchend Brook.  An NFA member reported a visit from earlier this year finding numerous small fish, newts and tadpoles in the very spot of the FoL photo. ]

It’s not just the fragile ecosystem which is at risk, but there are also precious archaeological sites(8) as well as significant geological areas, not to mention the serious knock-on effect the works will have on tourism and local businesses as well as the lives of local residents – massive tipper lorries each carrying in excess of 30 tonnes of material will be driving down narrow Forest lanes(9), putting the lives of the ponies and cattle at risk(10), as well as walkers, horse riders and cyclists, not to mention the potential for structural damage to properties(11) adjacent to the planned routes.

(8)   The New Forest History and Archaeology Group have raised issues with the archaeological survey conducted to support the Environmental Impact Assessment.  We believe these concerns may be mitigated and rectified, and we would support all interested parties to achieve this.

(9)    Slight error, the tipper lorries proposed have a maximum load of 20 tonnes.  Odd though, as if their weird claim were true, it would mean at least 33% fewer HGV movements.

(10)    The same drivers will be used, and will be made aware of the “possible pedestrians, cyclists and livestock in the carriageway”, there will be “speed restrictions for delivery vehicles;” – 15mph on the Forest’s gravel tracks, 5mph under the ordinary 20mph restriction under the byelaws, and “traffic management with radios on the Ogdens route” as well as term time restrictions for school run to local schools.  Consider the number of large scale refurbishments to properties along the route, which would have had none of these extra precautions taken for their HGV movements, and no protest over these.

(11)    Vibration study was carried out as part of EIA.

How you can help
We need your help to stop what Sir Desmond Swayne MP calls ‘state-funded
vandalism’ (12)

(12)    This quite vocal campaign group is in his constituency.  His views about protecting the Forest though are inconsistent.  In early 2011 at the time of Env. Minister Caroline Spelman’s disastrous proposal to sell off the public forests, only one of the two New Forest Conservative MPs (plus one from nearby Romsey) rebelled against their party.  It was Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis, not Desmond who opposed the sell off.

We are crowdfunding to pay for legal representation and expert opinions to
mount significant legal challenges and if necessary to support a possible Judicial Review. We hope to challenge the legality of whole scheme and require the Authorities to put a stop to interference with balanced ecosystems (13) on this massive scale.

(13)    The ecosystem is not balanced, it was broken when Victorian engineers diverted the watercourse away from the natural meanders into artificial straight drains.  The project seeks to undo this damage to bring balance back to the ecosystem of the area.

[for space we’ve omitted two paragraphs, one about their legal firm, and one about the author of the page]

Fast facts
– one of the most iconic and beautiful streams in the New Forest will be
irreparably damaged (14)

– the Forestry Commission have just submitted a Planning Application to the New Forest National Park Authority

(14)    Clearly the author does not understand the difference between fact and unsubstantiated conjecture.

The New Forest Association support the Latchmore Brook Restoration

The New Forest Association has been following the progress of stream restoration work done by the Forestry Commission carefully over the years. The Association backed the first of these projects in 2005 with some trepidation. Confidence has grown as the results came through and management techniques evolved. The work has been carried out sympathetically and has done much to enhance the overall environment for the long term.

Our ecologists agree with Natural England that these works should help restore these precious habitats to “favourable” condition. We are delighted with the results of similar completed restorations, we are enthusiastic in our support for this proposal. We join our support to that of the Hampshire and IOW Wildlife Trust, Ringwood Natural History Society, and the British Dragonfly Society, amongst others.


Natural England do condition assessments on Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). They found that for many of those sites in “unfavourable” condition on the Forest, a contributing factor was previous drainage works (many Victorian). As the Land Manager of the Crown Lands of the New Forest, the Forestry Commission is obliged to improve units in adverse condition. The programme of wetland restoration was seen as the best response to the condition assessment. The latest tranche of these is being done through the High Level Stewardship Scheme which is part of the wider Environmental Stewardship subsidies (from the EU). These projects are controlled by a project Board whose voting members are the statutory bodies with responsibilities for the Crown Lands: The National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and the Verderers of the New Forest. Consultation on versions of the scheme at Latchmore has been going on since 2009. Along the way, the proposal was expanded to include all the areas in the stream catchment above Latchmore so that all the project areas that would be needed for eventual success could be rolled into one larger Planning Application. Making the application that size has also meant extra due diligence including a voluntary Environmental Impact Assessment, and extensive consultation.

The project will decrease flood risk downstream. An elementary understanding of hydrology would tell you that taking a straightened Victorian drain, and replacing it with curving meanders will slow down the egress of water from the system. Birmingham and So’ton Uni’s used the river catchment upstream of Brockenhurst, where previous restorations under the HLS, Final 4000 and LIFE3 programs have been completed over the last decade, for a study showing “flooding alleviated by targeted tree planting and river restoration”.

The British Dragonfly Society response to the planning application concludes, “The removal of shade by clearing trees and scrub, the reinstatement of meanders and the other associated works to restore the site will, we believe, improve the opportunities for Southern Damselfly to spread.”

Friends of Latchmore

We have no doubt that the “Friends of Latchmore” and their supporters love the Forest. However, their leaders have waged a one-sided campaign full of scaremongering unsubstantiated claims of ecological disaster. This is strong emotive stuff, if we took what they say at face value, we’d join their barricades, but their black and white view of the matter stifles debate and cheats their followers of the full view of the facts. They don’t even try to discount the great support from ecologists and conservation organizations, they ignore it, and they certainly don’t mention it to their followers. Nor will they concede the great successes of previously completed restorations. They have the gall to selectively quote, on their website, the British Dragonfly Society, who support the project.

Not that they don’t have valid points to make, but they bury them under a white noise of hyperbole, and irrelevancies. Instead of making points constructively and proportionately, they, in their clutching at straws manner, nitpick any small mistake with previous restorations as though it were a thorough refutation. These are the kind of minor notes the NFA and others would simply press upon the FC to add to their maintenance program.

the Brook in normal conditions
photo courtesy of the Forestry Commission

There is one stream, Ditchend Brook, which had work completed in 2014, which hasn’t bedded in as quickly as some of the other projects (which, frankly have bedded in much more quickly than expected). When particularly dry, there is a stretch that the FoL like to photograph and parade as a “failed restoration” (although they offer no criteria for this “failure”), they are seemingly alarmed by the large stone cobbles (which replicate the type of substrate found here, and are less likely to be washed downstream) .

The FoL are fond of suggesting that the Planning Authority cannot be impartial as the National Park is also a “partner” in the project. Their assertion cynically relies on oversimplification and ignorance.

The National Park Authority is only a “partner” in the project inasmuch as it is one of the statutory bodies required to be on the project board, and only benefits from the project as it successfully fulfills the Park’s statutory purposes “to conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area”. The NPA is represented on the board by their Chief Exec Alison Barnes.

The NPA’s Planning Committee is made up of 14 of the 22 members of the Park Authority. The Committee is mostly local Parish, Town, District and County Councillors (12) and 2 Secretary of State Appointees (through DEFRA). As with any Planning Authority they have strict criteria they must adhere to, and whilst they may seek advice from the civil servant staff of the Authority including their own ecologists and the Chief Exec, the decisions are theirs. No previous scheme has been refused because, like the present one, they are worthwhile restorations to improve the habitat. There is no conflict of interest as the Chief Exec on the board of the project serves the members of the Authority, not the other way around.


Does the NFA uncritically support these Wetland Restorations? No. Nor do we unreservedly support all of the Forestry Commission’s plans. For example, we are currently challenging the FC to have a serious rethink of their current version of the proposed Forest Design Plan, and we just successfully campaigned for the FC to tighten their regulation of fungi foraging on the New Forest SSSI.

We continue to campaign for better monitoring both by the Forestry Commission and Natural England which would make the case on paper for this and future restorations much more cut and dried. We may have preferred a more strategic prioritization of restorations (admittedly this could easily have been a tail chasing money burning exercise with little net benefit). We seriously note concerns raised by the New Forest Equestrian Association : road safety and transport of materials, and New Forest History and Archaeology Group : inaccuracies and omissions in the archaeological report, but believe these may be mitigated and rectified, and the Planning Authority and applicants should work with all interested parties to achieve this.

With any new scheme it is accepted that there will be some disruption in the immediate vicinity. Much of the scrub clearance would have been carried out as part of normal open Forest work for Commoning pasture management. This work compliments ancient lawn maintenance and adds to biodiversity. The area will recover quickly and be a better place for wildlife and the stream will meander across the lawn as it did once before. On balance, we have concluded that this project is worthwhile and should be approved.


If you are on the fence about support for this project, we hope that you will avail yourself of information (see further reading below). But, if you’d prefer to ponder this over a pleasant walk, we’d suggest you go and walk the Warwickslade Cutting, near Rhinefield Drive. The restoration on this stretch was completed in 2009. It was proposed and funded under the Final 4000, a project between the Forestry Commission, the National Park Authority, Natural England and the Environment Agency. It was done with the approval of the Verderers and with no opposition from the Commoners Defence Association (keep in mind that this project did not include any subsidy to benefit either). When you walk the stream at Warwickslade, you will be hard pressed to even imagine that work was done there, the only indication of the original straight channel you may glimpse is a gap in the canopy of the trees that were once either side. This is a mere seven years later, but it already looked this good five years ago.

Latchmore Brook, abandoned meander.

You may also want to go walk the Latchmore Brook itself. The original meanders are still very apparent, although the Victorians cut the throat of their source to convert the Brook to a drain. In the photo at the top of this note you’ll see part of the meander to the left of the current course. It’s edged by an area of parched grass to the left that would likely be green improved grazing if the meander were in place and functioning with its floodplain.  Imagine a stream gently flowing through the middle of the picture on the right, consider whether that harms, improves or equals the beauty we have now.

Finally, please consider this: The Victorian Engineers who put in the drainage works did not do Environmental Impact Assessments, they did not use sensitive methods of moving stream beds aside, so that invertebrates and other features of the habitat could be preserved, as done in the restorations we have now. Spoil heaps were left willy-nilly, conditions for erosion and bank instability were created, and the stream was disconnected from its natural flood plain.  Despite the bullishly done works of our forebears, these areas have bounced back. Nature is resilient. We need look further than our own lifetimes, both to the future and the past. If this work does not go forward, it will be a missed opportunity to provide an ecosystem more resilient to change, and to restore landscape and habitat.

Going forward the NFA hope we can all hold the Forestry Commission up to the highest standards for implementation, monitoring and maintenance of this work.

– Brian Tarnoff, Chair, Habitat and Landscape Committee, New Forest Association
(a modified version appeared previously as a note on our Facebook page)

Further Reading:

For more information on the schemes, as well as a good look at all the very successful schemes the FoL neglect to mention:

For a smattering of both sides of the argument have a look at the Presentments from the June 2012 Verderers Court:

For the official NFA Response to the Planning Application from our Planning Committee:
For the supplemental NFA Response to the Planning Application from our Habitat and Landscape Committee:

For the rest of the BDS response:

This study from Birmingham and So’ton Uni’s used the river catchment upstream of Brockenhurst where previous restorations under the HLS, Final 4000 and LIFE3 programs have been completed over the last decade: “Flooding alleviated by targeted tree planting and river restoration, scientists discover”

The River Restoration Centre used the work at Warwickslade Cutting for their Manual of River Restoration Techniques, although these may not be the same for the Latchmore project, it gives an indication of the great care that is taken in these restorations, and is worth a look

Warwickslade project for comparison: a mix of 8,000 tonnes of hoggin (dug sand and gravel mix) and 800 tonnes of firm clay by-product, both sourced locally, for 2km stretch, at a cost of £214,500.

Much larger project for Latchmore Brook and the many restorations further up the catchment: 5km of old Brook meanders will be restored, 8km of main channel, tributaries and side drains will have their bed level raised, and 4.6km of main channel, tributaries and side drains will be infilled. Total 13km restored/repaired, 4.6km infilled. Approx 96,000 tonnes Cost Approx £1,500,000. (based on estimates available at time of writing)

Brexit and The Forest

NFA Presentment for the Verderers Court 20th July 2016

However we feel about the Brexit referendum, its aftermath has introduced a vast array of uncertainty, including many elements key to the future of the Forest.

At last Thursday’s National Park Authority meeting, several members stressed the need to express our concerns about keeping the Forest’s levels of protection, investment and subsidy to government as soon as possible. The Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and the Environment Secretary will be contacted. The NFA offer our support and input, and hope that the Verderers will join this effort.

There will be much to consider: commoners subsidies past 2020; retention of the important landscape scale habitat designations of the SAC and SPA (Special Areas of Conservation / Special Protection Areas); what we may want from a new British Agricultural Policy, together with reformed Habitats and Birds Directives. New legislation may be necessary to back-stop these protections before the ties to the EU directives might be cut. There’s every reason for having the same levels of protection – or better – enshrined directly in United Kingdom law, policy and implementation.

The New Forest Acts and the role of the Verderers remain the bedrock safeguarding the Forest, and our National Park has unique qualities and demands. This must be recognized and respected at the highest levels going forward.

There will be clarifications needed. There is work to be done, and a timely and united forest would help put our vital points across.

Presentment made at the Verderers Court by Brian Tarnoff, Chair, NFA Habitat and Landscape Committee.

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 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.”

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

What’s in a name?

The Rose & Crown, Brockenhurst (photo: G.Baker)

The Rose and Crown may have its name changed to The Huntsman if owners, Marston, get their way.

Unfortunately the National Park’s conservation officer reported:

It has been established that the existing name dates from c.1900 [and the subsequent conclusion that] is not considered that the proposed name change will have a significant impact upon the character and appearance of the listed building as one of special architectural and historic interest …

Challenging this view, Graham Baker, our Planning Committee Chair, consulted Richard Reeves, a well respected local historian and NFA Council member. Richard’s findings on the origins of the pub’s name tell a very different story:

The name Rose and Crown has been in use since at least 1787 and was recorded in the Survey by Thomas Richardson of the Whitley Ridge and Lady Cross Walks of the Forest.

The next preceding record before this which I am aware of in for 1770 in the Forest Rental lists. Here it is recorded as the Three Crowns. The earliest reference of this name is the fuelwood list for 1725.
From 1725 the occupier was a member of the Collis family and they continued in occupation into the second half of the 19th century. They first appear in the Brockenhurst Parish Registers in 1718, John the first known landlord died in 1754, aged 63, and is buried in the Churchyard He was from a Worcestershire family of good standing.

Before the property came to be known as the Three Crowns it was called Rookley’s messuage, a name derived from Robert Rookley Head, Forester of the South Bailiwick, who died in about 1544. The 1670 Claim for Forest Rights by William Knapton (Lord of the Manor of Brockenhurst) records the property as Rockely’s messuage. Another corrupt version of the name, Brookley’s, is recorded in the sale by Philip Cray to Edward Morant in 1772. Cray was the Lord of the Manor of Brockenhurst, while Morant’s family went on to become Lords of the Manor.

In c.1604, the property was recorded as follows:

“One messuage and 1 close of meadow grounds adjoining to the same and compassed about with lanes on every side in the occupation of Tristram Elmes as tenant to Mr Knapton, Lord; acreage 6-1-0; annual value 3-6-8.”

Graham’s objection from the NFA to the proposal concludes:

The name is of special interest in the Village, [and] is intertwined with Village history and within the village only St Nicholas Church and Ash Cottage significantly pre-date it. [The ] NFA contends that the proposal to remove the lettering Rose and Crown from the front of the building will have a significant impact upon the character and appearance of the listed building as one of special architectural and historic interest. It is surprising that a new business venture should start by alienating the village and regular visitors, and NFA respectfully ask the applicant to withdraw and reconsider.

A mere name change may seem like a standard practice, a re-branding trotted out in the business model of a chain of interchangeable concerns. But, in the New Forest, our heritage is written in the names of our woodland inclosures, our villages, and even our humble pubs.

Thanks to Graham Baker and Richard Reeves for their work shared here.