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Presentments to Verderers — September

Here we welcome guest posts on night cycling and signs to educate the public.  These presentments were made by individuals to the Verderers, not on behalf of the Friends of the New Forest, and which they have kindly given us permission to share here.  The first is from Alison Tilbury, Vice chairman of Denny Lodge Parish Council, who spoke as a representative of the Parish.

We wish to ask whether the Verderers can initiate some control over the increasing numbers of nightime cyclists that are riding over the open forest in groups.  Most of these cyclists wear a very bright headlight which although may be effective for their riding causes disturbance to forest stock.

With the clocks going back in October we feel that now is the time that education is put in place to put a stop to this nightime activity.   This would ensure  that the forest has a time to rest and recover from the increasing pressures of all the daytime activities that take place.

Last November 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, and want the Forest to have, as Alison Tilbury has said, “a time to rest and recover.”

Our second guest post today is from local resident Susan Johnson, speaking on the subject of Visitors and Ponies and Signs

I am fully aware of the reluctance to put more signs on the Forest and the reasons given.  However, this year has convinced me, more than ever, that there is an urgent need for new signs at entrances to the Forest stating:

PLEASE DO NOT FEED, TOUCH OR COAX PONIES TO THE ROADSIDE

The information notices in the car parks and leaflets at various venues are not sufficiently effective. Many people do not bother to read them. They are not seen by the large number of visitors passing through, who stop on the verges and in lay-bys to look at the ponies and encourage them over to their cars to photograph, touch and feed them. I frequently encounter this behaviour as I drive across the Forest – in particular on the B3055 Sway to Brockenhurst road on which I drive twice a day, every day.  It is getting worse every year as visitor numbers increase. This year has been particularly bad.

On advising them, politely, that what they are doing is not a good idea and why, I receive mixed responses but invariably I am told that “they did not know that it was wrong” and asked “where are the signs to tell them this”? With – appropriate, instructional signs at Forest entrances they would have no excuse for their ignorance and could not justifiably claim that they “did not know” .

It may be mainly locals who kill the ponies but it is certainly, without doubt, visitors who entice them to the roads.

In conclusion, in my opinion such signs are vital and there is no valid reason for refusal to erect them. Without them livestock is being put at increased risk I which I find inexcusable! Please, let common sense prevail.

I really to not have the time or inclination to have to keep stopping and talking to these people.

We should note that these views do not necessarily reflect the positions taken by the Friends of the New Forest.  We share them here to stimulate debate, and to acknowledge the passion, care and time taken by the presenters, and thank them for their efforts.

Our policies against too much urbanizing of the Forest, often puts us in the position of arguing against too many signs, but certainly the nuances of content, effectiveness, and situation are part of that as an ongoing discussion.  We are not against effective efforts to educate the public about how to care for and respect the Forest.

 

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Verderer’s Announcements and Decisions September 2018

This month’s announcements include warnings about dumping apples and garden waste on the Forest as a hazard to the livestock, the upcoming Verderers Election, positive changes to the HLS Verderers Grazing Scheme subsidy, and the continuing appointment of the NFNPA Verderer.

19th September 2018

APPLES & OTHER WINDFALL FRUITS

The Verderers regularly draw attention to the problems that result from the public feeding ponies on the Forest.  At this time of year, there is often a glut of apples.  I would like to draw people’s attention to the particular dangers associated with dumping apples on the Forest. Apples in quantity, such as a bag of windfalls, can cause colic in horses. A whole apple can cause choking.  Leaving apples close to the roadside attracts animals onto the public highway and into danger from passing vehicles.

GARDEN WASTE

Dumping garden waste on the Open Forest also presents a hazard to stock as many garden plants are toxic.  In addition, it constitutes fly tipping.  We ask residents and those undertaking gardening and landscaping to please dispose of their waste responsibly – at the local tip please, not the Forest.

VERDERERS’ ELECTION

The Election of two Verderers, will be held on Friday, 30th November, when the terms of office of Dionis Macnair and David Readhead come to an end.

The deadline for registering to vote at our election was Monday, the day before yesterday.  However, as we want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to vote, registration forms will continue to be accepted until this Friday 21st September.  The Draft Electoral Register has to be finalised in time for it to be sent out to the public offices for public viewing from Monday 1st October.  The fact that you may have been registered for previous elections does not count, and therefore, to be able to vote this year, you must register now.  There are some spare registration forms on the table at the front of the Court.

I hope we will see a strong turnout at the election and I ask all those present to help spread the word so that as many people as possible are able to vote.  I very much hope the press will also help by giving publicity to this important event.

For anyone wishing to stand for election, the deadline for the delivery of nomination papers is Noon on Tuesday 6th November and I will issue a reminder at the October Court.  Anyone requiring further information, should contact the Verderers’ Office, or the Office of the Returning Officer, Mrs Rachel Brooks at the Under Sheriff’s Office in Romsey.

CHANGES TO CURRENT VGS RATES 2019

The VGS Committee & the Court of Verderers have agreed to amend the Verderers Grazing Scheme Livestock Unit rates payable in December 2019.  As the 2018 application forms have already been returned for payments due this December, these changes cannot be implemented until 2019.  Application forms will be sent out next February.  The Court felt it is important to let VGS members know of these changes before the coming winter as it may impact on their stocking level decisions.

The change to Livestock Unit (LU) rates allows the VGS to increase the incentive for Registered New Forest Mares and reduce the incentive for large numbers of cattle and non-registered equines.  The overall pot of money remains the same and the result will be that more members will gain than lose.

The following changes are to apply;

Registered New Forest Mare or Stallion from 0.8 to 1 LU (livestock unit)

No Marking Fee return for any other female equines (including donkeys).  Geldings are already excluded.

Cattle to remain at 1 LU but a payment limit introduced of 40 head of cattle per individual commoner

Copies of the amended VGS terms and conditions are available on the table at the front of the Court.

EDWARD HERON

We are pleased to announce that Cllr Edward Heron’s term of office as the New Forest National Park’s Appointed Verderer, has been extended for a further year.

We particularly welcome renewed statements on perennial issues such as mostly well meaning but entirely misguided dumping of green waste on the Forest in the mistaken notion that it helps feed the Forest livestock.  There is no positive in this, rotting greenwaste can poison livestock, and drawing livestock to roadside and other amenity locations endangers them and disrupts natural feeding patterns.  Regulated supplementary feeding is agreed at locations away from public interaction, and even this practice is questionably and may soon be phased out or reduced. The livestock are there to graze the Forest, and the habitat produced by their grazing and trampling patterns is a key part of the biodiversity of the Forest.

Along side this we also welcome changes to Commoners subsidy which should reward the stewardship provided by their livestock, but not be entirely based on headcount. capping the cattle subsidy may go some way to address areas which have possibly been over poached.

We thank the Verderers for their kind permission to occasionally include their announcements as guest posts here, as we hope we can help highlight the vital role they play on the Forest.

 

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Gasp! NFDC and Southampton Clean Air Zone Consultation

The World Health Organization named Southampton amongst the worst cities for air pollution in UK. Here’s our response to the consultation run by NFDC and Southampton on Southampton’s Clean Air Zone.  From 1 June – 13 September 2018 NFDC and Southampton have run a consultation on Southampton’s Clean Air Zone.

As is often the case, we’ve sidestepped the constraints of the online survey, which narrowly addressed a congestion charge type proposal, and prompted levels of agree / disagree to various elements. To its credit, the survey did take pains to explain its proposals within the survey (unlike the two recent National Park Recreation surveys). We did feel the need to comment beyond the proposals in the survey, particularly on the role of the New Forest District Council.

Our Response

Consultation Limitations  

Whilst clearly the policies and conditions which have triggered this Clean Air Zone consultation demand a pro forma consideration of options which include the DEFRA Charging Clean Air Zone classes and how measures related to the proposed options could be implemented – this unhelpfully limits discussion of the clean air issue to vehicle journeys that may be limited or mined for potential mitigation by a congestion charging model.  By structuring this consultation almost entirely around these narrow solutions, and there circumscribing response to levels of approval or disapproval, the consultation is skewed towards a rubber stamping exercise.

Southampton should also be considering how other industrial sources of pollution, including port activities and cruise liners running engines for generation in dock.  Broadly speaking we’d favour measures that Southampton might take, including the charging options in the consultation, but we’d consider further comment on this outside our remit.

However, New Forest District Council should have a broader scope in this, as many of their plans to allow development in the District will negatively impact air quality by increasing housing provision with its influx of cars, and allowing growth and creation of ports with an obvious uptick of HGV traffic.  Neither the NFDC, nor Southampton are taking into account their duties to the National Park, which should garner higher levels of protection.

Wider View of Clean Air for the District 

There needs to be joined up thinking here.  To have this consultation about air quality at the local city and district level, and a Government launching its 25 Year Environment Plan, promising greater protection to National Parks and both designated and undesignated habitats, is well and good, BUT to have that same Government dictating housing targets to the District and Park where more strategic planning should abide to achieve the Park’s Statutory aims, is senseless and inconsistent.

NFDC plans for housing targets set to 10,500 homes in the next ten years, including the Fawley Development proposed to provide 1500 homes (within NFDC and the National Park) at the bottom of the A326, as well as the ongoing developments at the ports at Eling, Marchwood Military, and the ABP proposal for a deepwater container port at Dibden Bay, all of which the NFDC local plan welcomes with no quibbles for impacts.

10,500 new homes will produce a minimum of 13,650 more cars in the district, each making daily journeys.  The growth and establishment of a new port will have a significant impact on HGV movements.  All of this severely compromising the A326, with knock ons to the A35 and other local trunk roads. The additional traffic on the already congested A326 would lead to demand for extending dual carriage way for much of its length, however, as NFDC have allowed a hard edge of development against the road from Marchwood to Blackfield, the only room for widening would encroach onto the Crown Lands and the New Forest SSSI which should be unacceptable.

NFDC should not duck their responsibilities for clean air by limiting, as this consultation does, their part in it to merely improving the stretch from Rushington to Redbridge.  Their responsibility and remit is wider, and they should ensure their plans do not damage or undo any strides made in the narrow tranche of congestion charge consideration within this initiative.

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Recreation Management: What We Should Keep and Add

The 2018 RMS Survey Proposals drop important Actions from the Current Recreation Management Strategy 2010-2030. We discuss what we’d want kept, and propose other useful key projects.

Actions to Retain from Current RMS 2010-2030

All the partner organizations were part of the extensive consultation that produced the existing strategy, which they would have had substantial say in and adoption. The objectives of the existing Strategy are “owned” by definition by the National Park which includes that Strategy as one of its core documents. Whilst it’s true that the Park Authority has limited direct responsibilities and powers, it’s incumbent on them to use their influence on those organizations that do, and there is a legal obligation for those bodies to listen and act accordingly.

One of the reasons that we find that the new proposals are not a substantial improvement over the existing RMS is that it leaves out specified actions which we continue to support. In some instances there are references to these in the survey, but passing or implied inclusion of these actions is insufficient as they should be explicitly included. Here is a non-exhaustive list of actions which should be considered for stated inclusion, with some suggestion for amendment or extension into new projects.

Develop a National Park Ranger Service

5.3 Raising awareness and understanding
5.3.3 Work with the recreation user groups and land managers, to promote responsible behaviour amongst all users that respects the special qualities of the National Park and the needs of others through a range of mechanisms, and especially by:
A.. Face to face contact with co-ordinated ranger services, providing a friendly and knowledgeable presence able to convey consistent messages
5.3.5 Develop a National Park Ranger Service which is responsive to the needs of the Forest as they emerge, and facilitate the co-ordination of existing ranger services within the National Park. Consider establishing a Young Friends of the New Forest Group to involve and engage young people more in the area.

5.3.3 Referenced absent Ranger Service aspiration 1.1 and 2.1
5.3.5 Passing mention 2.4 on the ground “mitigation rangers” and 5.2 funding

Credible enforcement of any rules developed, or even the existing byelaws, would require an investment in personnel. We would want to see this ambassadorial role extended to include some elements of enforcement.

We cannot necessarily expect either FC Keepers or Rangers, or NPA Rangers to fulfil the role of enforcement. It may be that a new role modelled after the Foreign style “Park Ranger”, that is with some police training and enforcement powers should be considered. There needs to be enough of a perceived enforcement presence, whether directly from beats of such rangers, or the extended eyes and ears of the combined other Rangers/Keepers/Agisters network for Park users to sense that they could be seen or challenged for inappropriate or illegal behaviour. We recognize that this would require funding, but providing this service would shore up any funding plans that require charging which itself would need enforcement to be effective.

Influencing beyond the boundaries of the National Park

5.9 Influencing recreational provision beyond the boundaries of the National Park
5.9.1 Outside the National Park, work in partnership with other Authorities to improve recreational provision that provides for their community needs (thereby helping to relieve pressure on the New Forest Special Area of Conservation). Ensure that recreation provision is at the forefront of planning for major urban expansion within a 20km radius beyond the boundary of the New Forest.
5.9.2 In partnership with neighbouring authorities, actively support their search to identify and implement opportunities for new Country Parks or similar and advocate the inclusion of these aspirations in the local development frameworks and core strategies of neighbouring authorities.

5.9.1 is not indicated in any way by the new proposals. In light of NFDC’s current draft local plan targeting 10,500 houses over 10 years, the commensurate surge in local population using the Forest, and NFDC’s low quality standards for Suitable Alternate Natural Greenspace (proposal to use degraded arable rather than setting a standard to offer land restored to a quality commensurate with the protected habitats for which it is meant to mitigate), this is clearly an important action.

5.9.2 could be construed to have a passing mention as an ambition Objective 4’s statement and glancing mention in Objective 5 Funding, but it is not featured amongst the Actions. Given that infrastructure needs may demand the wholesale destruction of the nearby habitat of Dibden Bay along with greater stress on local transport infrastructure, perhaps it would be reasonable to suggest that the National interest would demand a substantial mitigation which perhaps could include compulsory purchase of sufficient well placed land to fulfil the ambitions for Country Parks that would offset damage and act as preferred recreation sites.

Below we have proposed new projects to extend influence to neighbouring authorities: “Habitat Mitigation Framework for the Forest that is Fit for Purpose” and a “Strategic Regional Development Forum.”

Camping and Parking Infrastructure

5.6 Providing sustainable services and facilities
5.6.1 Undertake a review of recreational and visitor facilities in the National Park.
5.6.3 Manage car parking in the National Park as a means of providing access for people to the New Forest and managing impacts on the most sensitive areas. Overall car parking capacity across the National Park is not anticipated to increase or decrease significantly from existing levels:
A.. Audit car parking provision within the National Park6.4 Camping and caravanning
6.4.1 Audit the provision of camping in the National Park and maintain the unique experience the New Forest offers; sustain the significant contribution it makes to the local economy whilst ensuring that campsite management does not adversely damage the Park’s special qualities.
6.4.2 Work with partners to identify potential alternative sites to which the phased relocation of the more damaging campsites (e.g. Hollands Wood, Longbeech and Denny Wood) might be achieved whilst providing a similar quality of camping experience. It must be recognised the difficulties in finding alternative sites; many issues will have to be taken into consideration, including the local economy, transport links, access to facilities (e.g. villages, shops) and the camping experience.
6.4.3 Work with campsite operators to reduce the environmental footprint and impact of camping and caravanning on sensitive areas to enhance landscape and visitor satisfaction by:
.. preventing the extension of existing and development of new camping and caravan sites
.. restricting the spread of new supporting built facilities
.. ensuring that any built facilities that are provided reflect their surroundings
.. securing more sympathetic conservation management of existing camp sites
.. monitoring the condition and operation of the sites on designated areas.6.4.4 Explore opportunities to develop campsites as substitutes to those displaced from the commonable lands as a valuable form of farm and business diversification in robust locations.
6.4.5 Provide further guidance on the future management of campsites to reduce the dependency on car use, for example, by encouraging campers to leave their cars on site whilst visiting the National Park and continuing to promote alternatives to the private car for travel around the Forest.

5.6.1, 5.6.3 and 6.4.1 Audit of parking and camping provisions and facilities – a very straightforward achievable bit of work, unfortunately not yet done eight years later.

Below we have proposed new projects to address campsite issues: “Bring temporary campsites under a regimen of consistent standards and controls” and “Close Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech Campsites”. Both of these would augment the goal in Policy DP18 “enable the removal of pitches from sensitive areas by the relocation of part of a site to a less sensitive area”.

New Forest National Park Core Strategy Policy DP18: Extensions to Holiday Parks and Camp Sites
Extensions to existing holiday parks, touring caravan or camping sites will only be permitted to enable the removal of pitches from sensitive areas by the relocation of part of a site to a less sensitive area adjoining an existing site, providing:

  1. a) there would be overall environmental benefits
  2. b) there would be no increase in the overall site area or site capacity
  3. c) the area where pitches or other facilities are removed from would be fully restored to an appropriate New Forest landscape, and any existing use rights are relinquished.

To be supplanted by almost identical Submission Draft Local Plan 2016-2036 Policy DP47: Holiday Parks and Camp Sites removes the restrictive stipulation “adjoining an existing site”

Possible RMS Projects

This is a non-exhaustive list of possible projects that would be welcome ways of delivering the aspirations which should have been more explicitly spelled out in the survey document.

Research Station for the Forest

This would pool resources to staff and deliver a focus for New Forest research. It would maintain a catalogue/concordance of extant research, coordinate research efforts from academic institutions, quality check citizen science, and encourage research to provide evidentiary base for spatial strategy, recreation and livestock impacts on habitat, climate change or any other key criteria for future decision making.

Habitat Mitigation Framework for the Forest that is Fit for Purpose

Mitigation regimes use formula developed by Natural England for Thames Basin Heaths, which does not scale appropriately to the Forest because a) the Forest is much richer in features and biodiversity at threat and should cost developers more b) the morphology of the Forest is different: Thames Basin Heaths spatially has greater opportunity for alternative spaces, where the Forest, surrounded, creates more of a siege situation (with only one defence to the West at Moors Valley, and plans to the East eternally pipe dreamed).

Strategic regional development Forum

In the past some planning regimes managed on a more regional basis was able to reduce pressure in and around the Forest. Both the promises of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan and its subsequent upcoming review of National Parks should be an opportunity to put the case again. Recreation pressure on the Forest is directly affected by population proximity, housing targets within and on the borders of the Park. If the park and its borders cannot be afforded a sufficient buffer zone that retains its own green belt with sufficient alternative natural greenspace, then the government’s promise of increased protection to our parks and habitats is hollow. The Draft Action proposals have relegated engagement with other authorities to mitigation (which as already noted is undercooked), housing targets with direct impact on Forest recreation are relevant under Section 62 Duties.

Bring temporary campsites under a regimen of consistent standards and controls

Both these camping projects (see below) could help address the obligation under the 2001 SAC Management plan to relocate three FC Campsites (Five year priority 6.4.2 of RMS 2010). Temporary campsite provision in and around the Forest should provide a consistent minimal standard and be subject to appropriate licensing. This could lead to a Charter, or even a scheme similar to “New Forest Marque” for campsites to assure visitors of a Park led standard of quality, and perhaps, oversight. It may also be appropriate to encourage some small pop-up sites as alternative temporary use of backup land during the peak tourist summer season, which could serve as an additional income for commoning.

Close Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech Campsites.

The Natural England’s SAC Management Plan for the New Forest 2001 (page 30, Part 3: General Prescriptions) gave “Unfavourable Declining” condition assessments to Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech due to the presence and management of the campsites.   The Campsite Survey (New Forest Camp site Baseline Survey: Final Report (Cox, Jonathan: July 2010: Lyndhurst: New Forest Association)) showed these have less than half the canopy they ought. This Authority’s Landscape Action Plan doesn’t even have the word campsite in it, let alone a consideration of their impact. The NPA need to address this remiss approach.

 

 

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Recreation Management: Evaluated Actions

Detailed Response To the Draft Actions

The 2018 survey proposals consider 25 “Actions” spread over 7 “Objectives”.

For the most part these are bland statements of guiding principles, but offer few concrete strategic steps to manage recreation. It is difficult to formulate a response to such an underwhelming document. On their face, it is difficult to quibble with the stated actions they vary from statements of the obvious (apply enforcement to illegal recreation activities) to standard operational concerns (find funding and consider charging the beneficiaries of recreation), but there is almost no substance (much talk of developing mechanisms and techniques with no useful specificity). Much of it is not well written, eschews plain English, and may be left to so much interpretation that opposing views may inaccurately be imposed on its meaning. It may seem pedantic or churlish to point out these flaws in the presence of obvious good intention, but this is meant to form a core policy document of a National Park Authority, it should include clearly stated proposals.

The main problem is not the writing, or the bland proposals, but what has been left out, either dropped from the previous RMS Strategy, lost through omission by vagueness, or simply not considered.   These include Management actions meant to fulfil the obligations of the SAC Management Plan. What follows here is an in depth critique including the full text of the proposed Objectives/Actions for reference, we have detailed omitted or alternative actions, and our summary remarks and conclusions are available separately.

By and large, the stated Objectives are relatively sound, having antecedents in the existing 2010 Strategy. The descriptions of each are at the heart of the good intentions of this revised Strategy, yet they’re not even up for discussion, only the proposed “Actions” are offered up for evaluation. There has been a truly odd decision in the presentation of these core descriptions in the online survey, by default they are hidden, requiring respondents to manually “unhide” each. Additionally a Draft Criteria for Judging Recreation Facilities has been published to the Managing Recreation web page but no comment is sought for this in the survey.

Raising awareness and understanding –
ensuring recreation is sustainable, wherever it takes placeObjective 1: Convey the things that make the New Forest special to both visitors and local people in more consistent and effective ways, so that they understand the importance of making responsible recreation choices.This objective acknowledges that the level of awareness of the New Forest’s special qualities, and their sensitivity, is currently insufficient. People who enjoy and come to understand the New Forest are much more likely to value and want to protect it, so it is important to work together in a range of ways to create a greater sense of ownership, respect and responsibility that ensures the Forest will retain its unique features into the future. The work needs to be tailored to resonate with the varying motivations, values and interests of different audiences.

We fully support education initiatives. These objectives and actions are important and in many ways already in hand. We believe a change of emphasis from “the special qualities of a National Park” to “delicate habitats of a National Nature Reserve, working farm and forest” would highlight the need to protect, especially for those for whom “Park” is an urban greenspace for play.

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
1.1. Improve the quality and availability of information and interpretation about the special qualities of New Forest. Websites, social media, printed materials, exhibitions, film and face-to-face communication
1.2.Encourage organisations involved in tourism to inspire respect for the special qualities of the National Park by regularly including agreed key messages in their communications. Through Go New Forest, visitor attractions, publishers and accommodation providers
1.3.Develop the current programme of guided activities and themed events to give local people and visitors authentic experiences and meaningful connections with the special qualities. Guided walks, public events, activities in villages and training courses
1.4. Increase the uptake of formal educational programmes on offer and provide additional supporting resources on New Forest specific topics. Through Educators Forum, online curriculum-linked resources, travel grants, school assemblies, eco-groups and teacher training

Objective 2: Address significant and/or widespread negative impacts caused by recreation in the most appropriate, proportionate and effective ways.

This objective recognises that there are many different ways to encourage responsible recreation and to reduce or displace activities that might impact negatively on the New Forest or other people. It also emphasises the shared responsibility for protecting the Forest between relevant organisations and user groups. There is already broad recognition of the main issues, and some good initiatives are in place; but more work is needed to share best practice and jointly explore new ways to achieve the desired results.

Responsible recreation is an admirable goal. To some extent it should follow from education, a sense of respect, ownership, and as is suggested here “shared responsibility” for protection of the Forest.

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
2.1.To help address a range of different issues and aid joint working, develop a ‘toolkit’ of different ways to influence recreational behaviour. Best practice advice and training on face-to-face communication, ‘nudge’ techniques, making the right option the easiest one to take, printed materials and signage, websites, digital technology, social media, peer pressure
2.2.Through working groups with appropriate terms of reference or other joint initiatives involving local organisations and user groups, identify and implement the most effective and long lasting strategies to address significant and widespread negative impacts caused by recreation. Reduce disturbance of wildlife, feeding of animals, animal accidents, litter, verge parking, fungi picking and negative impacts of dog walking, cycling and horse riding
2.3. In support of other techniques, use appropriate and proportionate enforcement activities to deter illegal recreation-related activities. Address verge parking, litter, illegal flying of drones, wild camping, lighting fires, parking in car parks overnight, cycling off the permitted network and out of control dogs
2.4. Increase the number and effectiveness of staff, volunteers and ambassadors ‘on the ground’ who can encourage people to enjoy recreation responsibly. Through higher levels of funding, improved partner coordination, habitat mitigation scheme rangers, apprentices, joint training, citizenship policing and a new ambassador programme
2.5.Manage organised activities and larger events in order to minimise negative impacts on wildlife, the working Forest and on local people. Licences and permissions given for use of Crown land and other open Forest areas, and events given guidance by Safety Advisory Groups

 

2.1. “To help address a range of different issues and aid joint working,” is an unhelpful word salad and an unnecessary preamble to “develop a ‘toolkit’ of different ways to influence recreational behaviour.” which is vague enough on its own, but at least means: “develop ways to influence recreational behaviour” which is what I hope you’re trying to say.

2.2. Isn’t “Through working groups with appropriate terms of reference or other joint initiatives involving local organisations and user groups, identify and implement the most effective and long lasting strategies to address significant and widespread negative impacts caused by recreation.” exactly what this strategy is meant to be doing? Is one of the “Actions” genuinely for this Strategy to develop itself? The result apparently is to reduce all the ills of the Forest as listed as “Examples of possible delivery”. How that magically transpires is not specified.

2.3. “In support of other techniques”, which other techniques? If you can’t specify them, why mention them? “use appropriate and proportionate enforcement activities to deter illegal recreation-related activities.” Is it necessary to specify, when deterring illegal activities, use of appropriate and proportionate enforcement? Are you suggesting that, for illegal recreation activities disproportionate inappropriate enforcement is a known issue?

“Provide enforcement to stop illegal activities.” or “Enforce law” more apt / readable?

2.4. An initiative to better support, increase “on the ground” presence of staff with ambassador / education and most importantly some level of enforcement power would be welcome. If a Forest user feels that they may encounter Forest Rangers on perhaps one out of ten excursions (or whatever magic number that would inspire the public to feel that they are likely to be occasionally, even with the mildest touch, “policed”) The lofty aspiration perhaps beyond the grasp of current funding/enforcement models might be a Parks Service in the style of Foreign National Parks, like the US whose Rangers have constabulary powers, local wildlife and habitat keeping, and education expertise.

2.5. Again, managing organized activities and larger events, whether through permit systems or accompanied by Safety Advisory Group involvement (in non permit related venues) would require some level of enforcement to either insure that permit or safety stipulations were observed, or to confront those flaunting whatever system is in place. Additionally, it may be desirable, as part of wider road initiatives targeting the fenced and gridded roads to work towards powers for local Authorities to have greater say so in the use of those roads, which may lead to permits required for high capacity road using events.

Objective 3: Reduce the barriers that limit participation in beneficial outdoor recreation among those who need it most

The New Forest already helps people to maintain and improve their health and wellbeing, it provides training and employment opportunities and is an ‘outdoor classroom’ from which we can all learn. However, some people may feel excluded and others do not recognise the value of the Forest (to themselves, the wider population or to future generations). This in turn risks alienating important sectors of society and failing to make the most of the ‘natural health service’ that is available. This objective is therefore about targeted work with specific groups of people at locations that are well-suited for bespoke interventions or activities.

This objective is made more convoluted and possibly misleading by the fact that it makes much of its language vague in that obligatory dance around avoiding using a term that might offend people with disabilities. In doing so, they may have been equally patronizing, offensive, and so unspecific that anyone with a beef against “barriers” of any description, might feel they could be catered to. Additionally, there is an attempt to lump issues including “youth” which surely belong under education, and the general health of outdoor recreation, which in no way demands to be on the Forest (it is not an obligation for the Forest to provide). Conflating these issues is not helpful to any of them.

Society has an obligation to level the playing field to be more inclusive. How this practically extends to the Forest may not, or cannot remove all “barriers”. Replacing styles with kissing gates, or other manageable solutions, is likely within the purview, but paving paths, providing more pedestrian/equestrian/wheelchair friendly bridges is perhaps not. The chief problem with this section is it doesn’t confront the need to have that conversation, merely hinting at that below referencing “appropriate changes”, but with no criteria for what is appropriate. It would be disingenuous to suggest that every inch of access land on the Forest could be made accessible, nor do we think that any user group so demands.

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
3.1. Inspire more young people to appreciate and understand the special qualities of the New Forest and realise its relevance and value to them and to future generations. Through wild play, digital technology, training and apprenticeships, award schemes and inspirational youth-led projects
3.2.Develop targeted schemes that harness the health benefits of outdoor activity in and around the New Forest, close to where people live and at agreed locations. Regular walking, cycling, green prescriptions, volunteering, Green Halo Partnership and Health and Wellbeing Forum projects
3.3.Establish regular liaison between organisations that provide opportunities for outdoor recreation and organisations that represent people with a range of disabilities to identify and implement appropriate changes that will increase accessibility. Better information, fewer stiles or other ‘barriers’, accessible toilets

3.1. This point is more about using some recreation opportunities to promote education for youth, and belongs in Objective 1.

3.2. When discussing schemes to promote recreational activity, whether part of a health benefit scheme or not, the key aspect we would want to manage is where this takes place. This point belongs in Objective 4.

Sustainable recreation in the right places – managing where it happens
Objective 4: Achieve a net gain for the New Forest’s working and natural landscape and for the recreational experience by influencing where recreation takes place.This objective is primarily about geographical distribution of recreation and associated facilities; there are also links with earlier objectives with respect to specific sites where people are provided with information. An holistic, long-term vision and a short-term plan for agreed gateways, key sites and core routes is needed (within and beyond the National Park). Only by taking this ‘spatial approach’ can we be sure to attract people to the most appropriate sites and reduce the impact on the more sensitive areas and thereby protect the special qualities.

By using this approach, significant net benefits should be achieved. Desirable changes will vary considerably: from ‘easy wins’ such as the provision of additional information through local information points, through changes to the location of car parking provision (about which a range of views is likely to be expressed), to ambitions for new country parks outside the national park boundary that may take many years to come to fruition.

The long-term vision needs to address the following categories of locations:

  • a) Gateways: key access points such as certain villages, visitor centres and information points, rail stations and car parks near the perimeter of the Forest or close to A roads
  • b) Key sites: agreed popular sites for recreation such as country parks, wild play sites, campsites and Forest locations with facilities such as larger car parks, visitor information and toilet facilities.
  • c) Core routes: walking, horse riding and cycling routes (on and off road) including sustainable travel options (walking, cycling or public transport from where people live).

Spatial strategy is at the heart of how we can actually influence recreation, which is why we have continually called for a review of recreation infrastructure since the inception of the Park, and nominated it as one of three key priority projects in our response to last year’s RMS call for views. We strongly support “ambitions for new country parks outside the NP boundary” although this is given only a passing reference in the deliverables for action 4.2.

When discussing key access points, it is worth noting that RMS partner, NFDC took the extremely short sighted decision to close the visitor information centre in Lyndhurst.

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
4.1.Develop a long term vision for where within and around the National Park people should be encouraged to enjoy outdoor recreation. Changes to ‘gateways’, key sites and core routes
4.2.Within a year of publishing the update to the 2010 strategy, consult the public and relevant organisations on what changes should ideally be made to ‘gateways’, key sites and core routes to achieve this objective. Maps showing sensitive habitats, conservation designations, and areas with higher tranquillity which need to be protected from adverse impacts of increased recreation; revisions to the location of parking capacity in the National Park; parking restrictions to prevent physical damage to the Forest; selective improvements to the network of off road cycle routes; rights of way where enhanced signage would be useful; locations for visitor information; locations where safety can be improved e.g. where off-road routes cross busy roads; possible areas where increased recreational opportunities might be desirable on private land and outside of the National Park
4.3.Having taken account of feedback on the above action, and after obtaining appropriate regulatory consents, develop a phased programme of implementing changes that avoid temporary net or ongoing likely significant effects on the recognised features of designated areas. Extend, relocate or reduce gateways, sites or routes to ensure impacts on recognised features are decreased
4.4. Implement the programme as resources allow, adapting and reassessing individual elements in the light of monitoring. Ensure that people park in the car parks and not on the verges, and use the sites and routes provided.

4.1. Simply summarizes the key notion that “where” is one of the key tools at our disposal for management of Recreation. This is the crux of what we support.

4.2 Here we have one of the few concrete proposals, and it gibes well with the new spatial strategy for recreation infrastructure which we have proposed and would support. However, by lumbering the project with a year timeframe, which would limit decision making to whatever data is to hand or can be cobbled together within that time, it would inevitably result in an infrastructure just as arbitrary as the one created when the Forest was fenced and gridded half a century ago. Given that within the current RMS, five-year action 5.6.3., the very straightforward project to audit car parking provision within the National Park has not been undertaken within eight years, some scepticism arises as to how this and all other relevant data may be achieved.

There is a further disconnect in not folding in the longer term goals of Objective 6 for data and evidence, and the notion that a spatial strategy should be achieved by public consultation rather than a basic evidence based consideration of the existing habitat and its pressures.

4.3. Merely posits implementing the half-baked brainchild of 4.2.

4.4. Again an instance of presuming the resolution of the list of “Examples of possible delivery”.

Finding funding – and using it effectively
Objective 5: Increase the level of funding available for recreation management so that it is sufficient to address both existing and upcoming needs.This objective recognises that resources are limited and that some aspirations for improved management of recreation can only be achieved if additional funds can be found. For example, car park maintenance could occur more regularly and more rangers could be deployed across the National Park if additional funding can be found. New recreation sites such as country parks would require major capital funding and business plans which ensure they are sustainable financially.

It is both good that a forward strategy considers funding sources for implementation, but also sad that certain elements of basic management including enforcement and education are no longer guaranteed products of the public purse despite their universal benefit (this is not leveled as a criticism of the proposal, but an observation of the situation this objective must address). We do find a disconnect between a Government touting a 25 year Environment plan including promises of greater support and protection for habitats and National Parks, but not offering the cash to ensure these goals may be met.

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
5.1.Approach and work with organisations to raise funds and other resources for specific recreation-related projects. Local businesses and charities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, grant making bodies, youth and health-care organisations, Clinical Commissioning Groups
5.2.Develop a coordinated approach among planning authorities in and around the New Forest to mitigate the impacts of new housing on protected areas – with the aim of using developer contributions to support work that protects the Forest. Agree a common approach to determine the levels of developer contributions, work together to boost awareness raising initiatives (including rangers) and, with funding from the Local Enterprise Partnerships, landowners and businesses, create significant new recreation sites outside of protected areas
5.3.Through consultation, develop mechanisms through which those who benefit from recreation facilities can contribute towards their maintenance and the good of the wider Forest. Developing and promoting the voluntary Love the Forest visitor gift scheme, inviting donations to support specific recreation facilities, reviewing where and how much people are charged for parking, larger events and provision of services
5.4.Work with the Government to include incentives for access improvements on private land within future land management grants, where these would benefit the public and reduce (or not increase) pressure on nearby sensitive areas. New walking, cycling and horse riding routes; campsites and other recreation facilities; England Coast Path

5.2. Mitigation schemes are key in and around the Forest, but sadly they need to be drastically redesigned to fit the Forest. Using the Natural England work at Thames Basin Heaths critically undervalues our much richer and under pressure habitat. This is why we proposed a project to make mitigation for development in and near the Forest fit for purpose.

5.3. We welcome allowing for the possibility of charging Forest users, but this should be stated more clearly. If the charging model is adopted, there would likely be backlash, but a sound rationale should be developed to justify this move. A more specific view of what this would fund (enforcement, education, infrastructure maintenance etc) would make the value of charging clearer.

5.4. We outright reject the notion that “where these would benefit the public and reduce (or not increase) pressure on nearby sensitive areas.” could result in the England Coast Path, which under current proposals only increases pressure on our most disturbance sensitive highly designated Coastal habitats.

Data and evidence – to help guide the work
Objective 6: Collate data and evidence to help inform the ongoing management of recreationThere is ample evidence of the benefits of quiet outdoor recreation to our health and wellbeing. It is also clear that people sometimes impact in negative ways on each other, on sensitive wildlife and on important aspects of the working New Forest. The actions in this strategy can and should therefore be progressed.

However, more data and evidence would help target resources more effectively and efficiently, clarify trends in recreation, help predict which interventions are most likely to work and monitor the success of different recreation management initiatives.

 

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
6.1.Through existing or new forums, collate existing data and evidence, agree which data can most usefully be used as ‘key indicators’, identify gaps in knowledge and develop plans to improve the evidence-base used by organisations that manage recreation in the New Forest. Species population data, habitat condition assessments, frequency of incidents caused by recreation, numbers of people taking part in different recreation activities, traffic counts and visitor data from tourism businesses
6.2.Analyse and publish data on a repeat or rolling basis to assess trends in recreational activity and on aspects of the New Forest that might be affected. Analysing data to show the degree to which recreation management interventions achieve the desired effect, State of the Park Report, Annual Monitoring Reports for local plans

 

Evidence based decision making should be at the heart of management across the Forest, not merely for recreation. Although it is acknowledged that the Forest is a highly designated Habitat for conservation, it is relatively poorly surveyed. A Recreation Management Strategy demands a more thorough, cohesive knowledgebase to be able to move forward, particularly in respect to spatial management decisions (as in the canard of Action 4.2. proposing spatial maps absent sufficient data/evidence). This does present an opportunity for fostering useful research, surveys and a more comprehensive understanding of populations of local flora and fauna and their sensitivities.

We agree with the element of 6.1. that useful key indicators must be identified and agreed, but would add further that an agreed minimum level or granularity of data is necessary. This would allow pragmatic decisions to be made once some basic understandings have been achieved, avoiding analysis paralysis. We would quibble slightly with 6.2., the emphasis on “trends of activity” over habitat that is (not “might”) be affected.

Adaptive monitoring and implementation – keeping the strategy alive
Objective 7: Regularly review progress against agreed recreation management actions and adapt forward plans to protect the special qualities of the National Park and enable people to enjoy and benefit from them

It is impossible to predict the degree to which the actions in this strategy will be achieved, especially given the ambitious nature of some actions that will depend on new resources being found. However, the six organisations on the RMS Steering Group intend to remain focussed on protecting the Forest for the benefit of future generations; they will therefore continue to meet, monitor progress and consider how to respond to changing circumstances.

Draft action Examples of possible delivery
7.1.Regularly review the implementation of the actions in this strategy and the degree to which they achieve the desired outcomes. Feedback from lead organisations, reports from joint forums, trends in the occurrence of incidents, analysis of the effectiveness of interventions where this is possible, feedback from user groups
7.2.Where actions are not progressed or finalised, consider what could be done to redress the situation and gain agreement for revised actions where possible. Find new resources or prioritise the most important actions
7.3.Review and update the Recreation Management Strategy actions after five years. Consultation with user groups, local organisations and the public

Reviews and updates are the minimum due diligence to any plan. There’s no objection to its obvious inclusion, but this is another disconnect as to why it is necessary for these elements to be rated on a like/dislike scale in an online opinion poll.

Many of the “actions” from the rest of this proposal are so vaguely defined that it will be difficult to establish criteria. The promise of a “review and update” after five years seems a bit hollow coming from the Park Authority which in eight years has not reviewed the actions of the current strategy, despite containing the same five year promise.

We will continue to insist that a Strategy must contain a Plan with more precisely defined actions, these are mostly ideas and guiding principles about what actions might be done.

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Recreation Management: Adjusted Expectations

Our Strategic (or perhaps less than) Approach to the RMS Review

We welcomed the review of the National Park’s Recreation Management Strategy, the core policy document whose difficult birth plagued the early years of the Park. Little of its 60 actions, including straightforward surveys and a five year review had been achieved. It is to the credit of the Authority officers that they mooted this review, which was accepted unenthusiastically at the March 2017 meeting by the Authority membership in the manner of a recalcitrant child taking medicine.

This review is an opportunity to raise the profile of Recreation Management in the Forest, to revisit the extensively publicly consulted upon 2010 Strategy, to create a more focused Plan featuring fully specified high-priority projects to address the ageing infrastructure, education and large increases of use resulting from growth of development on our borders.

Since then the red flags have gone up with the confusing, unrepresentative survey, its poor interpretation, and the drive this year to engage in a similarly, perhaps even more empty and simplistic exercise in public engagement. (for more about our concerns with the surveys read here)

We have at every step of the way offered the NPA constructive criticisms of both the content and method of this review.

When questioned directly as to how the review in any way improves on the existing Strategy, NPA Officers and Members have given certain responses (which I’ve taken few liberties in paraphrasing):

  • All is well because the surveys and proposals have been signed off by the partner organizations (gnomically tautological, often with flourish pointing to their logos).

  • The “actions” of the original strategy weren’t “owned” by the relevant organizations, which need to deliver the objectives.

  • This Strategy will call for the partners and others to volunteer initiatives to deliver actions and objectives which will deliver Recreation Management.

All the partner organizations were part of the extensive consultation that produced the existing strategy, to suggest that they never really signed up to those objectives is a ripe nonsense. The objectives of the existing Strategy are “owned” by definition by the National Park which includes that Strategy as one of its core documents. Whilst it’s true that the Park Authority has limited direct responsibilities and powers, it’s incumbent on them to use their influence on those organizations that do, and there is a legal obligation for those bodies to listen and act accordingly.

Case in point: the Natural England SAC management Plan 2000 prescribed that campsites in A&O woodlands be shut down with their camping provision perhaps moved elsewhere. The FC are under an obligation to make this happen. The National Park should be monitoring camping provision for the whole of the Forest, including the licensing of “pop-up” campsites which may very well be providing that alternative provision organically. The National Park, obligated by their purpose to conserve, should encourage the FC to fulfill the SAC management plan, and use its leadership and influence to help smooth the way for this action.

This is not merely a case in point. It is an Action pledged under the existing 2010 Strategy. Oddly it seems to have been dropped from the new version. Whilst all this should happen because of obligations outside the purview of the Strategy, it is entirely within to help chivvy it along.

There might be the view that the Friends of the New Forest / NFA should play a longer game, presume that the vague well-meaning mishmash will eventually garner useful concrete proposals fully supported by the partner organizations, and that these will also magically cover the statutory obligations given little or no space in the proposals. Given the lack of follow through on the 2010 plan, and the failure of the Park Authority, both officers and members to take on board our criticisms of this version of the strategy over the last year, we lack confidence in their ability to steer this course. We would fail our duty as a critical friend of the Park if we merely patted them on the back for their effort and patronised them with a “bless!” and perhaps a gold stick-on star.

This may risk a chilly relationship between us as the National Park Society for the New Forest, but they are public servants, they are indulging our resources and they should expect criticism for below par output. As little we’ve said has deterred them so far, we can at least demand from them a swift roster of actual plans following on from this survey process which would quell our concerns, and attract our praise, which will be equally vocal and public should they hit the mark. Otherwise we’ll continue to watch as they tread water and ignore all the life preservers we helpfully lob in their direction, mindful that this delays useful and needed action to the detriment of the Forest.

We still have faith in the potential of the National Park to deliver a coherent plan which we could support, and what we have before us contains many of the right ideas amongst the blather. The Authority needs to show a willingness to propose specific solutions which could include difficult choices which they would defend publicly. We await their leadership.

This is part of our ongoing coverage of the National Park Authority’s review of the Recreation Management Strategy which we ultimately support, but have grave disappointments in the conduct and current proposals to date.
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Recreation Management: In A Nutshell

Whilst we’re still formulating our detailed response to the Future Forest draft actions survey 2018, we’re sharing these preliminary thoughts.  These observations will make more sense if you read the proposals. You may read the full text of the proposals without engaging in the survey with this Adobe Reader pdf version: Future Forest draft actions.

Here is a more admittedly impressionistic summary of our thoughts about the Recreation Management Strategy proposals in question:

Much of it lacks detail and substance.

It makes no reference to the National Park purposes or the Sandford principle enshrined in legislation, obliging the park to conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage, and dictating that irreconcilable conflicts with public enjoyment should favour conservation.

It drops useful proposals from the existing strategy, including at least one legal obligation to fulfil the SAC management plan.

Much is poorly written. Not in plain English.

All of the “Actions” have “Examples of possible delivery” which are often accompanied by a list of problems presumptively resolved by the action. (When one of the more glaring examples of this style disconnect was spotted by a helpful member of the Park Authority at the meeting that OK’ed the draft, the word “Reduce” was plonked at the front of the list. See below.)

With absolutely no sense of irony, or understanding of the concept of recursion, one of the proposed actions is “Through working groups with appropriate terms of reference or other joint initiatives involving local organisations and user groups, identify and implement the most effective and long lasting strategies to address significant and widespread negative impacts caused by recreation.” I thought that was what we were developing here. Under “Examples of Possible delivery”: “Reduce disturbance of wildlife, feeding of animals, animal accidents, litter, verge parking, fungi picking and negative impacts of dog walking, cycling and horse riding” a list of desired outcomes, which, as if by magic results from the here-to-for unglimpsed illusive strategies that this strategy plans to seek out.

In support of other techniques, use appropriate and proportionate enforcement activities to deter illegal recreation-related activities.” Could be said in two words in two ways either “Stop crime” or “Enforce law”. If anyone has a clue what “other techniques” is euphemistically…..?

It frequently supposes that the Forest is obliged to provide a venue for recreation, rather than a place where managed recreation is appropriate. It does suggest, conversely, that there should be “shared responsibility” for recreation impacts and protection of the Forest.

There is slight mention of influencing neighbouring authorities for developer mitigation, but not on quelling overdevelopment that increases local populations regularly using the Forest. The ambition to create neighbouring country parks as alternative recreation sites is mooted, but not stated as a specific goal for survey respondents to support.

The surveys, by their own admission, employ no attempt to get “a balanced and representative sample”, have been poorly interpreted (including the claim that one proposal had “wide public support” despite positive comment from only 22% of respondents), and so make them a nearly meaningless time-wasting exercise.

The new survey only asks for feedback on a sliding scale of agree/disagree on vaguely stated proposed actions. No consultation is made for the stated Objectives or for the Draft Criteria for Judging Recreation Facilities (published on the Park Authority website but not included in the survey).

These “actions” may form the basis for future useful proposals for action from the partner organizations, but we cannot judge it on this assumption as there is no onus put on these organizations to deliver these specific outcomes.

On the upside it does acknowledge the importance of education, spatial strategies, data and evidence.

There is a good mention for increasing the number of “on the ground” staff to influence and educate recreation behaviour, we’d be more heartened if some aspects of enforcement were added to this ambassadorial role.

It also tries to address funding issues and floats the notion that Forest users may be charged for some facilities, possibly parking, as a means of funding both upkeep and relevant initiatives to protect the Forest.

Overall: Good ideas dragged down by blather and vagueness, amounting to a statement of guiding principles, but not a Strategy.

A Strategy should be a Plan with specific actions.

This is not a palpable improvement over the existing Strategy, and in some respects an abrogation of responsibility to deliver the actions of that Strategy, which was subjected to a lengthy and thorough public consultation, including the partner organizations, which are obliged to assist the Park in delivering its purposes.

This wheel spinning exercise has merely deflected from any continued implementation, although it has helped highlight how sorely we need to manage recreation in a proactive, robust, brave fashion.

This is part of our ongoing evaluation of the RMS Proposals, and may be subject to amendment, updates, and further consideration. In particular this is not how we are expressing our opinion n the official response, but a quick snapshot of our thoughts for our members, readers and followers.
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A Year In The New Forest — telly doc review

It may be difficult to quantify why Channel 4’s new documentary series A Year In The Forest is such a uniquely rich and well observed celebration of what makes our Forest so special.  Sure, there’s abundant beautiful photography, but we should expect this in a 7 pm Saturday flagship documentary slot.  The filmmakers took their time with this, literally a year and change, and have produced an episode per season of that year for a set of four.

The filmmakers have avoided pitfalls of previous efforts, no celebrity CNP figureheads up in hot air balloons, no gross oversimplifications, no — as certain BBC magazine programmes past have done — touting of inappropriate recreation activities (there was some regrettable habitat disturbance intentionally running through bogs for some mucky version of orienteering).

They’ve selected a cast of knowledgeable local characters, who they seemingly allow to speak for themselves, variously representing commoning and conservation.  A decent proportion of those “followed” are members of the Friends of the New Forest / NFA, including two members of our council; this is less a declaration of interest from this reviewer, more an appreciation that they’ve chosen people who know what they’re on about.  (We should probably mention much of the glorious wildlife is captured on film by our friend Dr. Manuel Hinge.)

Its success may lie partially in what they leave out.  Last names, for starters, all the “leads” in focus are only referred to by their first names, this has the effect of making the discussions more intimate and personal.  A last name is dropped in a description of a family heritage going back to 1680, you may spot a familiar commoning name on an erstwhile bucket, and a side character local mycologist is anonymised when joining “Richard” for a fungi ID hunt (her name passed in conversation).  In focusing on individuals they’ve also skirted or left out larger group activities, hard to imagine a doc on Autumn in the Forest without a chunk about the Drift or Beaulieu Rd Pony Sales (will Winter include the Point-to-Point?).

There’s also a lack of official talking heads from the statutory organizations, the National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission (The Forester featured is not even from the FC, but from the excellent Pondhead Conservation Trust which manages their inclosure sympathetically under lease from the FC), or even the Verderers.  We’re not being lectured at, we’re being spoken to.

This works well in conveying the love and care for the Forest from all those involved, but excludes any prescriptive suggestions on how to protect it.  An incident of a dog chasing deer, resulting in a drastic change to mating patterns, amongst other things, passes without any comment on the behaviour of the dog owner.  The foray for autumn fungi is not concluded with any message to not pick (which I’m certain will have irked at least one participant).  As a campaigning organization, we know it’s often difficult to express precautionary principles without falling the wrong side of hectoring, but these few moments begged a slight nudge at least, although this may have not fit with the welcoming tone the narrative affects.

At the same time they don’t utterly shy away from hard realities, TB tests are endured and acclimatizing young stock to coming Winter requires a firm stance that may not sit well with those ready to misunderstand animal welfare.

Based only on the first quarter, a sterling effort.  Although the slight niggle of missed opportunities to guide viewers from respect towards protection of the Forest; perhaps a “if you’ve been effected by issues in tonight’s programme” proviso, with hints on how to help, which might include supporting local conservation landowners (Wildlife Trust, National Trust and recently in place RSPB), volunteering for on the ground conservation, or even joining the Friends of the New Forest, at a stretch…

A Year In The New Forest is produced by Blast! Films for Channel 4 and airs on Channel 4 on Saturdays starting 28th July at 7pm, and available on All 4 Catch-up Apps for 30 days each.

 

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Recreation Management: Summary of Our 2017 Response

A summary comparison of our 2017 response to the draft “Actions” proposed by NFNPA in the 2018 survey.  For last year’s Future Forest survey, we sidestepped the survey format and focused on three main areas for specific, achievable projects. These were 1) National Park Infrastructure 2) Influencing Adjacent Authorities and Communities and 3) Education Emphasis on Protecting the Forest

1. National Park Infrastructure –

  • Parking and Camping Provision Assessment
  • Habitat Assessment / Evidence Base
  • Actions to lead to provision design Fit For Purpose

The Draft Actions contain an aspiration to create a map to be used to address infrastructure priorities, but this is given an absurd “quick-win” goal of being produced within a year of the adoption of the RMS update. Rather than specifying key criteria and gathering evidence to base a sound spatial strategy, this will be done with whatever haphazard data is to hand or may be hastily compiled within that timeframe leading to an infrastructure just as damagingly arbitrary as that which we’ve inherited.

2. Adjacent Authorities and Communities –

  • Raise the profile of development on our borders that will affect the Forest
  • Brief Decision makers on impacts on the Forest and Section 62 Duties
  • Make nearby communities aware of their representatives responsibilities
  • Promote adequate, proportional mitigation
  • Petition Central Government for more strategic targets to take pressure off the Forest

The Draft Actions limit discussion of influencing adjacent authorities to their recreation provisions, where placement of population increases from new development if often the strongest driver in creating recreation pressure on the Forest. As mentioned above mitigation regimes undervalue the New Forest without scaling Thames Basin Heaths framework appropriately.

3. Education –

  • Develop clearer more straightforward messages
  • Look to reach other audiences
  • Easily highlight the Forest’s need for protection
    • National Nature Reserve
    • Working Farm
    • Working Forest
    • In context of the ongoing Habitat Loss in the UK

Of course there is a useful “Raising awareness and understanding” action point which is front and centre, but it is focussed very much on doing more of the same, but more often in more places with better production values, not shifting the message to significantly highlight the habitats and ways of life under threat. Getting a very simple key notion across that the Forest needs our collective respect and protection could give those education efforts a more useful focus and lead to positive impact.

This is part of our ongoing engagement in the debate on the National Park Authority’s Review of the Recreation Management Strategy.  Our full response to the 2017 survey is available here.  Our 2018 response is ongoing.
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NFNPA Public Questions: Recreation Management Strategy

We continue to welcome the opportunity presented by the review of the RMS, but are underwhelmed by the process and proposals. I wouldn’t belabour the deficiencies of last year’s online survey with 1500 unverified respondents[1], but for the proposal that the exercise be repeated, with the “Draft Actions” under consideration.

I must admit I was initially optimistic when these were previewed, there are sound ideas at heart, but made anodyne, presented with so little detail, as to be vague and inoffensive; anyone could read into them goals we’d like to see achieved. These are “more plans to make plans”, with no palpable improvement, apart from brevity, on the previous RMS. Some essential actions, predicated by legal obligations to designated habitat, have been discarded. All the education actions focus on promoting special qualities[2], not on shifting emphasis to protection.

The Strategy needs to include a set of concrete proposals, a non-exhaustive list could include:

  • Establish a Research Station for the Forest – this could provide an evidentiary base for spatial strategy.
  • Habitat Mitigation Framework for the Forest – reliance on Thames Basin Heaths mitigation severely undervalues our more richly featured at-risk habitats, and is not fit for purpose.
  • Audit of parking and camping provisions[3]
  • Strategic Regional Development Forum – working to lower housing targets within and on the borders of the Park to reduce pressure.
  • Bring temporary campsites under a regimen of consistent standards and controls.
  • Close Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech [4]
  • Create a “Park Ranger” role that includes enforcement.

One set of actions that nearly rises to the level of a plan, managing recreation infrastructure[5], is lumbered with an unrealistic year limit to decide future zoning and control. Rush decisions using whatever data is to hand or can be cobbled together, rather than developing a spatial strategy, with agreed criteria, tied to well grounded evidence, would lead to an infrastructure just as damagingly arbitrary as that which we’ve inherited.

It’s well and good to have a set of aspirations, but without a clear set of projects to achieve the least of them, reviewing our aspirations is relegated to a make-work delay in taking action. I am confident that you could hammer out useful, practical proposals, that would fulfil the Statutory Purposes of the Park, and legal obligations to designated habitats, commoning, and the working Forest. Please do not let a dumbed-down internet poll be the final word on this important document.

[1] half the population of Lyndhurst.

[2] In ways that are already being done. This strategy should show how we’ll do things differently to be effective.

[3] Five year priority 5.6.3 of RMS 2010

[4] The obligation under the 2001 SAC Management plan to relocate three FC Campsites (Five year priority 6.4.2 of RMS 2010) should not be ignored; it is even possible that the rash of 28 day license pop-up campsites has effectively absorbed an equal provision already.

[5] Objective 4

This Statement was read out to the 15 June 2018 Meeting of the National Park Authority. The version of the document distributed to the members included more detailed versions of the non-exhaustive list of project proposals which would be appropriate for inclusion in a Recreation Management Strategy with any depth and utility. A revised and updated version of those proposals has been submitted as part of our response to this year’s survey, and may be viewed *here* (Coming soon.)
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