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Chris Packham Pushes For Unicorn Rewilding in the New Forest

Unicorn in Puckpitts Inclosure drift pound circa 1700.

This article originally appeared in the 1st April, 2019 edition of the Lymington Tomes / Miltonian Adverteaser and is reprinted without any regard to their permission.

Miltonian Adverteaser / Lymington Tomes correspondent Olivia Narwhall.

Celebrity naturalist, and tadpole tapas enthusiast, Chris Packham has demanded that Natural England reintroduce unicorns to the New Forest.

“We are living at a time when there is catastrophic species decline, loss of habitat, and still no definitive method for eating Cadbury’s Creme Eggs and although I can find no correlation between those problems and the absence of unicorns, I feel this is a solution that will really work.

“Unlike the marauding ponies which have turned the Forest into a hellscape which SSSI * condition Natural England have rated as 10% above average, the unicorn’s horns prevent them from browsing trees. The rainbows they emit will be a welcome additional benefit in climate change drought periods.

The Forestry Commission was sympathetic, “our attempt to breed Gruffalo at Bolderwood did not go well, and could have made us elf-shelve our literary mission to fictionalize 20% of the Crown Lands by 2022. Many members of the public support this unfounded reintroduction because unicorns are ‘Shiny!’.

Official Verderer, and syndicated advice columnist, Lord Willie Manners expressed concerns over DEFRA’s handling of the issue. “At this time we have little confidence that DEFRA could resolve the unicorn subsidy post-Brexit, although they have submitted one proposal by tapestry. Also, despite having the requisite stature, our Head Agister is unwilling to undergo species reassignment to become a Centaur.”

Commoners Defence Association head, Tony Hockley, who once successfully talked a leprechaun out of his gold, “Packham continues to undervalue the contribution that Commoning makes to the Forest. He has made similar claims before. In 2008 he suggested overgrazing was responsible for the disappearance of faerie rings, that was shown to be commercial fungi foragers, in 2016 incidents blamed on ponies of barking of beech trees were traced to a donkey possessed by the conifer goddess Pitthea.

“On the other hand, the Commoning community is fully up to the challenge of Forest run unicorns, which will require its own set of breeding and stallion programmes and drifts. We can certainly see the promise of future Beaulieu Road sales with Fantastic Beasts.

Eleanor of Castille and Unicorn at Queen’s Bower, New Park circa 1340

Local historian who’s never been mistaken for a warlock, Richard Reeves, blames the media. “Those documentary makers kept goading me for a soundbite, I told them the Forest was ‘Magical’, townie middleclass idiots literally didn’t understand that was figurative.” Then, citing dozens of primary sources, including Borges , Richard regaled the room with a complete cryptozoology of the New Forest, which caused one of our reporter’s heads to explode with the rapid influx of information.

The Freshwater Habitats Trust has opposed “Unfortunately, the glitter unicorns produce, in the same ways cattle exude methane, degrades into microplastics which would sully the otherwise pristine waters of the New Forest Catchments.”

Friends of the New Forest Chair, John Ward sighed, “It is disappointing that this proposal seems slightly less mythical than the Park Authority’s Strategy for Recreation Management.”

New Forest Association Habitat Committee Chair, and man who continues talking 30 seconds after you stopped listening, Brian Tarnoff objected, “We are appalled that this should be a priority when New Forest District Council are in the process of destroying the green belt, which will harm biodiverse network connectivity, this will deter visitors such as the Pegasus on its migration between Greece and Iceland. §” He then outlined the generational crisis which will be caused by the NFDC Local Plan, but we thought that unimportant to our vital stoking of this celebrity unicorn controversy.

Ministry of Magic Appointed Verderer Anthony Pasmore, hastily shuffling parchment maps of leylines between New Forest barrows, tumuli and boiling mounds to the bottom of the pile, called the move “too little, too late! There was a time when visitor numbers were kept in check by simple warding spells and the Forestry Commission’s Werewolf Keepers. The disturbance by dog walkers, spread of monkshood, decline in leeches and ban on newt harvest have put paid to those hallowed traditions.”

“A few impalings might also warn off detectorists, once they learn how sensitive unicorns are about ancient monuments.” Pasmore added with a wry, withering look.

Brockenhurst resident, Observer Film Critic, and ex-member of The Railtown Bottlers, Mark Kermode, who often refers to the New Forest as “Narnia”, did not comment, but cryptically offered greetings to Lucius Malfoy.

In other news: Worshippers erect Pylon Sized Wicker Man at Hale Purlieu and invite a National Grid representative to assist search for missing schoolgirl. National Park one step closer to creating Green Halo after radiation leak. ABP Withdraw Application For Deep Water Port at Dibden Bay, submit Plan for Affordable Housing For Mer-people in its place. Man engaged in recreational activity on the Forest annoys other people doing other recreational activities on Forest. Film at 11.

Whilst the provenance of this article is without question at the time of its original publication, doubt may be cast on its validity when the noonday gun has sounded.

UPDATE (12 am 1st April) : This just in, Science says unicorns don’t exist, so apparently this article has been the act of a fabulist, and just in time for the closing of the HLS (High Level Sorcery) scheme.  Thanks to all those who have been good sports, and hope we’ve not spawned any basilisks.  Those responsible have not been sacked, but those who were responsible for sacking those responsible have been sacked.

Here’s a taste of last year’s silliness, a report on leaked plans for the Recreation Management Strategy.

* SSSI — Site of Special Speculative Imagination
Manual de zoología fantástica (later El libro de los seres imaginarios, Book of Imaginary Beings), Jorge Luis Borges with Margarita Guerrero, Fondo de Cultura Económica (1957); Dutton (1969)
Literally. Richard still refuses to pay the dry cleaning bill.
§ Olympus, Greece to Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland, often stopping en route to chat to The Bisterne Dragon at Burley Beacon.

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Verderers response to BBC Inside Out South

This is the Verderers of the New Forest Press Release in response to claims made on a segment of BBC’s Inside Out South aired on Monday, 28th January, 2019.

It is a great shame that Mr Packham declines to talk to the organisations which manage the New Forest. Some of his statements are, unfortunately, quite wrong. For example, he assumes that every animal for which the Verderers receive marking fees is actually turned out on the Forest for the entire year. We know that is not correct. Commoners generally turn their cattle out in summer but take them home for the winter. Some cattle are never turned out onto the forest.

Some ponies spend most of their lives on the Forest but others are also taken home for the winter. The animal population varies throughout the year.

An excellent indicator of the grazing pressure is the condition of stock. There has been no deterioration in the condition of the stock overall. The Verderers, through the Agisters, monitor the welfare of the stock closely. The Agisters report regularly to the Verderers on the condition of the stock out in the Forest. Any report to the Verderers’ Office of an animal in poor condition is promptly investigated by an Agister. Any animal found to be in poor condition is removed from the Forest.

The Verderers host two Welfare Tours every year which are attended by a number of organisations including the RSPCA, World Horse Welfare, the Donkey Sanctuary, British Horse Society, Blue Cross, Defra and Animal Health/Trading Standards in order that the condition of the stock can be independently monitored and assessed.

In 2016, a small number of ponies were found to be stripping trees of their bark in Mark Ash Wood. Other ponies in the area were not touching the trees. All the ponies in the area were in excellent condition. Ponies do sometimes eat woody material but it is not an indication of hunger. Because it can be a learnt behaviour, the animals responsible were identified and removed from the Forest. We and the Forestry Commission are continuing to monitor the situation.

Over the last eight years, the Verderers of the New Forest Higher Level Stewardship Scheme (a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers working with Natural England) has restored over 10 miles of drainage channels, which were artificially straightened by the Victorians The work has resulted in more natural wetland systems which help to support the unique biodiversity of the New Forest.

In 2017 the Wootton stream restoration was shortlisted for the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) Awards for Planning Excellence award – the Natural Environment category. It’s a credit to the team and Mott MacDonald who were involved in the planning to restore Wootton Riverine back to its natural meandering route. It’s a truly collaborative project between many partner organisations, who are working towards conserving the New Forest’s unique natural environment.

The Forestry Commission burns about 250 hectares – which is only 2% of the total heathland area across the Crown lands. Even though this is a relatively small proportion of the heath, it ensures we have a healthy and vigorous range of heather heights and ages, which as well as providing diversity also provides us with effective firebreaks to protect large areas of heathland, woodland and private property from wildfire.

There are a number of very rare species in the New Forest whose very existence is due entirely to the hard grazing and the poaching by animals that occurs in some parts of the Forest.

The present high number of animals for which marking fees have been received is, we believe, due wholly to the present farming subsidy scheme. We hope the Basic Payment Scheme, which we do agree with Mr Packham, is not appropriate to the Forest, will change after BREXIT, and we are calling for a bespoke subsidy scheme for the New Forest run by the Verderers, the Forestry Commission and the National Park Authority with the invaluable input from Natural England. These are the organisations which, together with the commoners, have managed and protected the Forest and will continue to do so for many years to come.

The Forest is facing ever more pressures, especially from increasing recreational use. The best way to ensure its survival is for the organisations responsible for its management to continue to work in partnership. Those who disagree with their management should engage constructively with them.

30th January 2019

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Our Chair Responds to BBC Inside Out Allegations

Friends of the New Forest Chair, John Ward, responds to claims made on a segment of BBC’s Inside Out South aired on Monday, 28th January, 2019.

In a short programme it would be too much to expect explanation and discussion, but Chris Packham’s assertions, “the Forest has been drained, burnt, overgrazed and suffers a catastrophic decline in species” certainly had the tabloid newspaper headline effect he no doubt wanted.

Perhaps stream and valley mire restoration, the fact that a decade or so ago there was a great worry that commoning was declining so fast there would not be enough animals, and recognition that species decline is often rooted in causes much wider that the New Forest, might also have been mentioned.

Drawing conclusions from a snapshot view of the New Forest is often risky for a place that evolves and fluctuates over long periods of time. Grazing within the cultural landscape of the Forest has always varied. For example, the dairy herds of the 1960s are no longer present and agri-environment grants come and go.  But, setting aside the passionate performance of Chris Packham, there is a very  important point coming out of this programme. The New Forest is still an astonishingly rich place for wildlife and for people, those riches depend on the continuity of commoning and commoning needs our support. One of the many challenges that the Forest faces for those of us seeking its long-term protection is to find the right way to make that support.

Our habitat blog will shortly feature more detailed consideration of the issues at hand as well as statements from other organizations including the Forestry Commission. The Press Release version of our Chair’s Statement is available here.
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Fungi and the Law (a summary)

We thought it was time to review where fungi law is currently. With Autumn fully upon us, and a plethora of various understandings being put about, I’ve attempted to summarize (with extensive notes below).

The Theft Act 1968 makes it illegal to take fungi or plants from the wild for commercial purposes[*].  But the fines are low enough(£100-300) to be a wrist slap cost-of-doing-business for commercial foragers.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 makes it illegal to pick any rare (schedule 8 red data list) wild plant including fungi[†].  The CPS Guidance lists much stronger penalties, including up to £5k fine per item, six months jailtime, and forfeiture of vehicles used in the act or to transport goods[‡].  The same act makes it illegal to “uproot” any wild plant without authorisation, but there seems to be neither guidance nor history of prosecution for this.

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) – both of the previous examples apply anywhere in the wild, the Wildlife and Countryside Act also provides extra protection for land designated as SSSI.  This makes it an offence on SSSI land to “intentionally or recklessly destroy or damage any of the flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features by reason of which land is of special interest”[§].  The New Forest has one of the few SSSI designations that lists its fungi population as one of its special interest features.  The downside of this is that very few prosecutions have been brought under this part of the act, although the fines up to £20k would make a very useful deterrent.

So technically, picking fungi on the New Forest SSSI without authorisation, is completely illegal, but under two less enforced portions of legislation.  BUT Picking fungi for any commercial purpose, OR picking rare species for any purpose anywhere are both illegal and realistically arrestable, prosecutable offences.

Byelaws

The Forestry Commission byelaws make it an offence to do anything to a plant, and also lists as prohibited for removal “soil, turf, leafmould, moss, peat, gravel, slag, sands or minerals”[**], strangely this seems to omit fungi, but this is because fungi were originally within the definition of “plant”.  The loophole was created when taxonomists reclassified fungi to a separate Kingdom.  The Wildlife and Countryside Act and other primary legislation solve this with a codicil that defines their use of “plant” as inclusive of “fungi and algae”.  The loophole should be closed in the Byelaws.

But for taxonomists and pedantry, it ought to be illegal in the FC Byelaws.  It is due to the loophole that the FC last year publicly suggested that fungi foraging wasn’t strictly illegal, ignoring illegality under the W&C Act. Oddly enough, The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW), is widely perceived to have banned all foraging on the access land it created (not applicable to the Crown Lands); yet, it too has the same loophole, in that it prohibits taking of plants, but never explicitly includes fungi within that definition, and virtually all guidance you will find says that it does!

The National Trust Byelaws explicitly prohibit fungi foraging[††], the Wildlife Trusts prohibit on their Nature Reserves, and Epping Forest (whose model of enforcement we hoped to emulate) prohibits “Taking anything”, usefully all inclusive.

Natural England, under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, as modified by the NERC Act 2006, has powers to make Byelaws for SSSI land.  However, these have yet to be exercised (saving for existing byelaws on certain National Nature Reserves), and only just this year have DEFRA and NE begun a consultation on how they might formulate such Byelaws.  This could be used in future to protect the notified features of the New Forest SSSI, which would include fungi, and effectively cover their accidental exclusion from the FC Byelaws.

Personal use limit. 1.5kg – This was an amount suggest in FC publicity for many years.  It has no legal basis, and came from a misreading of guidance, The Wild Mushroom Picker’s Code of Conduct.  The Code suggested that amount for culinary forage as a per foray group total per visit, and should only be done with permission of the land owner/manager.  The Code deemed culinary forage as inappropriate on SSSI and/or National Nature Reserves.  The New Forest is both.

The supposed personal limit is moot and was never applicable, neither legally nor in guidance, on the Crown Lands, the New Forest SSSI.  The appropriate limit is 0.

I would prefer a complete ban on the New Forest SSSI in recognition of the precious, delicate and under pressure habitat, that should be protected, not just by on paper designations.  Foragers can go elsewhere, but our flora and fauna can’t.  Those pretending they care for the environment, but arguing their entitlement to its harvest, regardless of its protections, are raiding the larder of a burning house.

That said, in one stakeholder meeting I suggested a practical measure for enforcement that would let those genuinely taking a small amount for personal use off the hook, whatever you could comfortably hold within your two cupped hands, surely enough for an omelette without waste.

The Friends of the New Forest support the Forestry Commission’s “Look, Don’t Pick” policy for the New Forest SSSI under their stewardship. We would like to see the FC take a prosecution for picking of Red Data List species, which carries strong penalties capable of putting off commercial foragers.

 


ADDENDUM and FOOTNOTES (for those with more will power)

Also worth noting the Forestry Commission’s powers and designations on Crown Lands:

NCC Consent 25 January 1988

The Nature Conservancy Council issued the following consent to the FC regarding the above operation:-  “The collection of fungi as authorised by the Forestry Commission, subject to periodic review by the FC and the NCC.”

FC/Verderers/English Nature Declaration of Intent 25 July 1995

“The Forestry Commission will continue to manage the New Forest as an area with the status of a National Nature Reserve and to maintain the nature conservation interests for which it is designated under national and international legislation or agreements.”

FOOTNOTES

[*]

The Theft Act 1968 Section 4 “Property”.
(3) A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose. For purposes of this subsection “mushroom” includes any fungus, and “plant” includes any shrub or tree.

This allows foraging activities for purely personal not any commercial use. Commercial use would include resale, but could be applied to those who run commercial foraging forays without permission of the landowner.

[†]

Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 13 Protection of wild plants
(1)Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

(a)intentionally picks, uproots or destroys any wild plant included in Schedule 8; or
(b)not being an authorised person, intentionally uproots any wild plant not included in that Schedule,

he shall be guilty of an offence.

(2)Subject to the provisions of this Part, if any person—

(a)sells, offers or exposes for sale, or has in his possession or transports for the purpose of sale, any live or dead wild plant included in Schedule 8, or any part of, or anything derived from, such a plant; or
(b)publishes or causes to be published any advertisement likely to be understood as conveying that he buys or sells, or intends to buy or sell, any of those things,
COPY

he shall be guilty of an offence.
(3)Notwithstanding anything in subsection (1), a person shall not be guilty of an offence by reason of any act made unlawful by that subsection if he shows that the act was an incidental result of a lawful operation and could not reasonably have been avoided.
(4)In any proceedings for an offence under subsection (2)(a), the plant in question shall be presumed to have been a wild plant unless the contrary is shown

Unfortunately, fungi are not terribly well served here.  In fact, their inclusion in the act is a bit of an afterthought.  This is in part due to the reclassification of fungi into their own kingdom in 1969.  A codicil, section 71 subsection 2 “it is hereby declared that in this Act “plants” include fungi and algae.” was added to the bill in subsequent legislation, Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.  (The NERC Act 2006 also established Natural England, and Section 41 species)

[‡] The Crown Prosecution Service does not seem interested in the SSSI related offences, their  guidance on Wildlife Offences focusses on more straightforward criminality, mostly pertaining to offences in Sections 9 & 13.

Powers of Arrest, Search and Seizure

Under section 24(2) Police and Criminal Evidence Act, as amended by Schedule 12, paragraph 13 of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, 2000 (the CROW Act,) the following are arrestable offences:

[INCLUDING] …

  • Any offence under sections 9, 13(1)(a) or (2) WCA 1981 (taking, possessing, selling etc of Schedule 5 wild animals or Schedule 8 plants). …

All offences under Part I WCA 1981 are summary only, except for offences under sections 14, 19ZA(7) and (8) which are either way. ….

Most offences are punishable on summary conviction by six month’s imprisonment and/or by a maximum fine of £5,000 (level 5). Where an offence is committed in respect of more than one bird, nest, egg etc the maximum fine shall be determined as if the person had been convicted of a separate offence in respect of each such item. See Section 21(5) WCA 1981.

Offences under section 14, 14A and 19 XB(4) are punishable on conviction on indictment to a term not exceeding two years imprisonment and/or a fine or both.

Powers of Forfeiture under WCA 1981 and generally

Wherever appropriate, courts should be reminded of their power to make such orders.

Under section 21(6)(a) WCA 1981 a court shall, following conviction for such an offence, order the forfeiture of any bird, egg, animal, plant etc in respect of which the offence was committed. Under s.21 (6) b a court may in the same circumstances order the forfeiture of any vehicle, animal, weapon or other thing used to commit the offence found in the offender’s possession. Forfeiture of a vehicle is often likely to be an effective means of deterring repeat offences relating, for example, to rare birds and eggs as well as of incapacitating an offender’s future ability to conduct such activities. ….

The Forfeiture guidelines are intriguing, adding a nice deterrent that in addition to the heavy fines for taking or selling Schedule 8 species, the vehicles used may be forfeited.

[§]Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

Section 28 Establishment of SSSI’s Provision P Offences

(6)A person (other than a section 28G authority acting in the exercise of its functions) who without reasonable excuse—

(a)intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages any of the flora, fauna, or geological or physiographical features by reason of which land is of special interest, or intentionally or recklessly disturbs any of those fauna, and

(b)knew that what he destroyed, damaged or disturbed was within a site of special scientific interest,

is guilty of an offence and is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £20,000 or on conviction on indictment to a fine.

Natural England is the statutory body which determines which features, flora and fauna are key to any given SSSI, these are called notified features as NE, when they designate a SSSI, are required to notify landowners of their obligations to the SSSI.  On SSSI’s intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging flora or fauna by reason of which land is of special interest is an offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 Section 28 (P).  Whether or not the fungi harvested is one of the notified species, the ancillary consequences of the activity of foraging, including trampling and disturbance may be covered by this as well. Hefty penalties invoked here may give prosecutions considerable bite.

[**]

The Forestry Commission Byelaws 1982

  1. Acts Prohibited on the Lands of the Commissioners

No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners:

(vii) dig up, remove, cut or injure any tree, shrub or plant, whether living or not, or remove the seeds therefrom, or dig up or remove any soil, turf, leafmould, moss, peat, gravel, slag, sands or minerals of any kind;

The Forestry Commission byelaws list prohibited substances for removal which includes “plants” which may ambiguously refer to fungi (if we take into account inclusive definitions in Primary Legislation).  It may be worth removing this ambiguity by either seeking an inclusive interpretation of the existing byelaw – after all, it is likely that the original byelaws were drafted before fungi were reclassified, and it seems stingy when your list includes soil, turf, leafmold, moss and peat, to insist that plant does not include fungi.  Otherwise we could petition the FC to amend the byelaw, this is a long game move, though, and would take as much as five to ten years.

[††]National Trust Byelaws 1965

Soil and Vegetation
2. (a) No unauthorised person shall dig, cut or take turf, sods, gravel, sand, clay or any other substance on or from Trust Property.
(b) No unauthorised person shall dig up or remove, cut, fell, pluck or injure any flowers, plants, fungi, moss, ferns, shrubs, trees or other vegetation growing on Trust Property or remove any seeds thereof or injure any grass or climb any tree.

The National Trust Byelaws are quite clear, and here in the New Forest they have had to be vocal as they’ve had incidents, such as when their own organized educational fungi walk on one of the Northern Commons under their managagement could find none as the area had been stripped by commercial foragers.

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Presentment: Our Objections to Local Plans

New Forest District Council’s Local Plan aims to build 10,500 homes over ten years. In their own summary they admit this is 3 to 4 times their current development rate.  13 of 20 of their proposed strategic development sites are on Green Belt.

This will increase the population in the district and park by roughly 7 times that of Lyndhurst.  One of these “Lyndhurst”s will be an entire new village at Fawley, which will increase the population of the park by 10 %, at the wrong end of the already stressed A326 transport corridor.  This would have a severe recreational impact on the Forest with disturbance to habitat and livestock, and would further urbanize the already saturated Waterside Area, requiring upgrades to the roads that due to that saturation would necessarily encroach onto the highly protected Crown Lands within the National Park, and would increase traffic westward across the Park on roads already animal accident blackspots.

The New Forest National Park Authority and NFDC share a viability study that accepts the developer’s contention that in order to develop 1500 homes at Fawley, they must build 120 as premium homes on a Site of Importance to Nature Conservation in the National Park.  Adjacent to the Power Station site, Tom Tiddler’s Ground is a young coastal grazing marsh that could easily qualify for SSSI status if it were grazed by commoners livestock[1].  [see addendum below for alternatives offered]

The National Park is failing its statutory purposes to conserve and enhance by adopting the poor logic and questionable feasibility behind the NFDC support for the Waterside development, and lack of objection to the scale of NFDC’s 10,500 home plan.  The Park Authority and District Council should be working together to fulfil their legal obligation to protect the Forest, not to undermine that protection for the sake of NFDC’s political objectives.

The Friends of the New Forest / NFA are objecting to the NFNPA Local Plan under examination in November, before your next court, because if accepted as it is, it lays the groundwork for NFDC’s Local Plan which presumes the need and scale of the NFDC objectives, including the destruction of Tom Tiddler’s Ground.

The Government 25 Year Environment Plan promises greater protection for National Parks and both designated and undesignated habitats, and a review for possible expansion of the boundaries of National Parks.  The Park’s own policy should only allow major development under exceptional circumstances.  10,500 homes in the ostensible buffer around the Park, the intentional destruction of Important habitat, and the decimation of Green Belt flies in the face of any presumption that the National Park provides the Forest with any protection.

We ask the Verderers, in their role as a statutory consultee to support our objections, particularly when the NFDC Local Plan is considered.  This is a generational threat to the Forest, and hope that all present in both official and private capacities will join us in this fight.


[1] Indeed previous attempts to do just that failed only due to unreasonable demands from the Power Station management.

ADDENDUM:
The current proposals range from 1500 homes on both the site and onto the SP25 land, or 4000 homes on the site alone (that profitability in the viability study equates 120 homes on the Park’s area with 2500 homes difference, is an example of the nonsense that the viability study purports, and a veiled threat to make an even more unacceptable development).  Even within the Power Station site, the proposals are not limited as they should be to just the former industrial area.  There is also an entirely cracked logic that if these homes must be built to fund the Power Station site development, that they must be built there, and not anywhere else in the country, and they must be built first, but with no guarantee that the industrial site would be developed subsequently.

The current proposals for the Power Station site, which do not demonstrate exceptional circumstances required for major development within the Park, should either be abandoned, scaled down to minor settlement, or mixed use for recreation or perhaps most fittingly for its industrial heritage sustainable power generation in the form of a solar array, all of which should be confined wholly to the industrial area alone, and outside the 400m zone of any future and very likely SPA designation.

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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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England Coast Path: What can I do about it?

We suggest some representations you might wish to make.  And discuss how the format of the consultation is restrictive.

In the run up to the end of the consultation on the Highcliffe-Calshot stretch, we’ve put together a series of articles about the England Coast Path.   Now with precious time to spare, you may want to respond to the consultation. (if you want to refresh your memory on everything we’ve posted so far on the subject (including this article))
http://newforestassociation.org/tag/england-coast-path/

Here’s where you can find all the proposal documents including the forms for responses:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/england-coast-path-from-highcliffe-to-calshot-comment-on-proposals

First, let’s hunker down on what hoops Natural England have set for us to jump through.  There are two types of response you may make, “Objections” and “Representations”, both with different forms to fill out.  We have been told that if you do not use the forms for your response, your response may by discretion be ignored (and some have informally been advised that they would be ignored).  In some instances you may do both.

Only owners/tenants/occupiers of land directly effected by the route may make “objections”, but these are limited to specific grounds:

  1. The position of any part of the proposed route shown on the map(s)
  2. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) that the route should “roll back” in response to erosion or other forms of coastal change, or the nature of our proposal
  3. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) an alternative route (in addition to the ordinary route), or the position of the alternative route or any part of it.
  4. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) that the landward boundary of the coastal margin should coincide with a physical feature such as a fence or wall, or the nature of our proposal
  5. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) an access exclusion or restriction, or the nature of our proposal
  6. Where we have proposed (or not proposed) to extend the route to any point between the open coast and the first public foot crossing point on a river.

“Representations” are not limited in subject matter / grounds, and owners/tenants/occupiers may make these as well (and are invited on the forms to identify themselves).  Anyone else may also make representations as individuals or group representatives.  In both types, multiple forms would have to be submitted if commenting on non-contiguous portions of the route.  Each form must identify a single “land parcel” or several adjoining ones.  Again, you may choose to depart from guidance, but run the risk of being ignored.

1 & 2. For our purposes here you’ll need to look through Chapters 3, 4 or 5 of the proposals.  These 3 Chapters alone propose 114 discrete sections of the route from Lymington Bridge (East) to Calshot (and that’s excluding possible Alternate Routes, which we have little to worry about as in this instance there’s only two bits along public highway from Inchmery Lane to Lepe Road, and Alternate Routes do not create additional Coastal Margin).  54 of those sections aren’t on current established Rights of Way, 21 of these sections classified as “Other existing walked” 33 sections are new “not an existing walked route”.  You can choose any of these for comment, I’d suggest an area you know well, or if you don’t know, go for one of the new ROW as these may be the most problematic.

For your additional research, I suggest looking at the Government’s Magic Map page http://magic.defra.gov.uk/MagicMap.aspx.  This lets you zoom into the area where your route sections are, you can turn off useful layers (layer menu is on the top left of the map ) under Designations / Sites of Special Scientific Interest (England) / Special Areas of Conservation (England) / Special Protection Areas (England) etc, also with useful Marine designations).  This is somewhat necessary as the consultation maps do not provide this information in any useful context or detail (there’s one map in the Overview which does not show the route and how it or Coastal Margin interact with the habitat and other designations).

3. Those listed in Schedule 1 Coastal Access reports, those with sport shooting rights and the following organizations: BASC; British Mountaineering Council; Country Land and Business Association; NFU; Open Spaces Society; Ramblers ; RSPB have to identify themselves (as if they were marked! — do you suppose they get a knock on the door asking how they were recruited to these shady organizations?).

4. “relevant interest” means that you are a legal owner / tenant / occupier of the land in question (i.e. you would also be able to make an “Objection”)

5. Here’s the real meat of the Representation, what ever concerns you about the report in such a way as to show that it “fails to strike a fair balance” between the provision of Coastal Access Duty and personal, statutory, local or National Interests.  National interests would include honouring the protections to habitat in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and other agreements and law that specify relevant habitat designations.  Either think of your own concerns that fit the bill, look through our other articles for extensive critique, and/or use almost any of the points below which sadly will apply to much of the route.

  • The Sensitive Features Appraisal fails to carry out a full Habitats Regulation Assessment to assess impact of this section of the route, route facing mitigation measures may not be presumed to work, and in the context of Coastal Margin which may allow incursion through the Margin from other directions, the proposed mitigation is flimsy.
  • Presumption that this route has no significant impact has not been proven in the absence of the full Habitats Regulation Assessment, or the possibly illegal inclusion of the proposed mitigation at the screening stage.
  • Because of the poor presentation on the maps provided it is difficult to judge the relationship between the route, potential Coastal Margin, excepted land and exclusions.
  • The Ordnance Survey’s practice of showing all potential Coastal Margin as access land will mislead many off this route section onto protected habitats and dangerous salt marshes.
  • Dogs should be on leads for all sections adjacent or through protected habitats, grazing or back-up land for livestock.
  • Using the least restrictive option principle as a standard for the Sensitive Features Appraisal is wholly inappropriate in the context of a National Park.
    • The least restrictive option principle has no basis whatsoever in the Legislation,
    • whereas within a National Park, the Sandford principle which favours conservation over recreation where they may not be reconciled is enshrined in the 1949 Act and subsequent Acts.

6 & 7. Self Explanatory, note because you are expected to submit separate forms for each contiguous stretch you criticise, you may have made other representations about the same report.  8. Again, harking back to #4. If you are and owner/tenant/occupier, have you also made out an “objection” form for between 1 and 6 statutorily granted reasons.

9 & 10. Tell them who you are, and send it in.  At this late date, you’ll want to use the email. (southcoastalaccess@naturalengland.org.uk)

Now I think it’s worth noting, if you haven’t already caught on, but the format of this consultation is onerous.  Some of the questions on the forms themselves require specialist knowledge, or a visit to a separate document that explains some, but not all of the questions.  You are told to submit multiple forms for multiple sections.

By virtue of the fact that the forms are geared around references to sections of the route, there is no way to identify portions of the Coastal Margin you may wish to comment on,  the seaward portion of the Margin is never explicitly delineated on the maps, although there is a useless box, often sitting on the map obscuring features that explains the Margin is the whole seaward side but for Excepted Land and Exclusions, and the maps do not depict these either for reference.  The maps do not show the boundaries of legally protected designated habitats, so it is not easy to judge whether the section has an impact.  There is no direct way to reference any of the supporting documents.  There’s much wrong with the Sensitive Features Appraisal itself, the forms don’t really offer you a way to make those comments.

So, if you’ve any spare time between now and Midnight Wednesday 8th of May 2018.  Download and fill out the form and email it in.  Even if you miss the deadline, keep sending them in with the complaint that an extension to the consultation should have been granted as Natural England have produced a report of much greater size and complexity than any to date, with unhelpful maps to judge the proposals by, and they took more than an extra year to do it : they should be obligated to produce useable maps and allow another four weeks.

Finally, while you’re at it, go to the link to this article on our Facebook page and just leave the reference to the section on which you commented.  Thanks for your help!

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England Coast Path: MisGuidance

Natural England’s Playbook for Coastal Access has problems.  The least of which is its ignorance of National Parks.

The Coastal Access Scheme 2010 / 2013

This guidance document was mandated under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 Section 298 The coastal access scheme. The first version of the Scheme (NE268) was approved on 23rd March 2010. Section 298(2) of the 2009 Act. Section 299(2) of the Act required Natural England to complete an initial review of the Scheme within three years, which they did, publishing that result 11th July 2013 (NE446).  It sets out all the procedures and rules for creating, consulting and implementing the England Coast Path and related Coastal Margin.

By the time they performed the first and only review to date on the guidance, Natural England had only had three stretches published [*], and only one of those approved. None of these stretches were in or adjacent to National Parks [†], the first relevant stretch coming on line over 2 years after the guidance was revised.  None of the three stretches had had a full Habitats Regulation Assessment, none of them had exclusion directions from Natural England under either S25a Salt marsh and Flats or S26 Habitat Conservation.  Only two had notable conservation issues of any kind.  The first had an important site for Natterjack Toads, whose breeding cycle can be severely impacted by as little as one dog in their ponds, “breaking up spawn strings, flattening emergent vegetation and muddying the water” (Hesketh Ecology, 2013); Natural England’s solution:  An Interpretation Panel, asking owners to put dogs on lead (just imagine how effective that would be).  The second had one specific measure to avoid impact on a colony of little terns, instead of using an existing public footpath near the colony, the route briefly diverted landward the other side of a sand dune, at the same time including the lot in Coastal Margin and leaving the public foot path open.  The rest of management measures on the three stretches included keeping people off a wind farm, portions of a camping park, away from boat cranes, and away from temporary events, including areas used for the 2012 Olympics.

The guidance generally favours recreation including principles such as “the least restrictive option” (pg 46) wherever public access may be curtailed. Within a National Park this flies in the face of the Sandford Principle. Although the guidance suggests that NE may hand over responsibilities for the route, and local exclusions to relevant National Park Authorities “once rights have been established”, there is no mention of either the park’s special qualities or of Sandford. It is unclear whether Natural England have ever exercised the option to make a National Park the “relevant authority” for the route beyond the expectation that the Park will become responsible for the maintenance of their portion of the stretch which falls under their separate duty as “access authority”.

Only two of the eight worked examples illustrated in Chapter 9 of the guidance imagine scenarios with sensitive wildlife, neither especially large. The first (Figure 28, pg 160) suggests the S25a Public Safety exclusion for Salt Marsh and Mudflats, yet offers “small areas of spreading room on flats and rock at either end of the section, which local people traditionally use as a beach and which are suitable for access.” without any concern over the effects of increased use as part of a section of a National Trail. The second (Figure 29 pg 161, and here on the right) shows a route around a wetland to prevent disturbance to birds, yet offers as an alternative a seaward section of shingle beach as allowable with small sections fenced for nesting birds, but no obstruction to anyone walking past. If the area were comparable to the wetlands and shingle beaches designated within this Park, this would not be advisable on our undisturbed shingle.

Sensitive Features Appraisal

A full Habitats Regulation Assessment should be carried out as a matter of course where new Rights of Way are proposed that lie adjacent or through designated habitats, with similar evaluation to existing ROW on the route where a National Trail is likely to increase traffic.

This appraisal, which includes heritage and other designations along those of habitat, potentially would include a Habitats Regulation Assessment, however, the guidance creates a loophole. Natural England (4.9.12. pg 45) self-determine whether their proposal including planned mitigation “is not likely to have a significant effect,” and then “this concludes the necessary Habitat Regulations tests”. This sort of self-determination of the effects of proposed mitigation at the screening stage has just been ruled against in the European Court. []

Although the Making Space For Nature 2010 “Lawton” report was issued before the 2013 revision of guidance, it’s respect and concepts for nature conservation do not seem to have been inculcated appropriately in the first review.   In particular, the very relevant concept of “coastal squeeze” where sea rise may force marshland inland has not been added to “Roll Back Provision” (Although NE Report Coastal squeeze, saltmarsh loss and Special Protection Areas (ENRR710) was published in 2006). Roll Back applies almost entirely to cliff edge erosion and coastal landslip, but should include other scenarios of sea rise and climate change which would squeeze habitats between advancing sea and an inland route.

The 25 Year Environment Plan (A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment), which promises greater protection for both designated and un-designated sites. These initiatives, along with the recent case which will effect Sensitive Features Appraisal (above), taken together, indicate that the slimmer or absent protections offered in the guidance should be reviewed and appropriately updated.

We’ll examine the deficits of the Sensitive Features Appraisal in more detail in:

Sense and Insensitivity : What happens when Sensitive Features Appraisal doesn’t live up to its title? (coming soon)

[*] Rufus Castle on Portland to Lulworth Cove approved 26/01/2012
Allonby to Whitehaven and North Gare to South Bents approved 18/07/2013

[] National Park included or adjacent stretches of the England Coast Path:
25 September 2015 both Hopton-on-Sea to Sea Palling (adjacent to the Broads) and Whitehaven to Silecroft (Lake District) were Approved, but only the first is fully open, the other pending new river crossings for the Irt and the Esk and approval of nearby sections. Filey Brigg to Newport Bridge (North York Moors) was approved 15th Jan 2016 and is fully open. Minehead to Combe Martin (Exmoor) closed consultation 15th Aug 2017, approval pending. Highcliffe-Calshot (New Forest) will currently have consultation closing 9th May 2018, should requests to extend go unanswered. Silecroft to Silverdale (Lake District) and Shoreham-by-Sea to Eastbourne (South Downs) are still having their proposals developed (currently mooted 2018).]
[] “European court upholds claims of Laois wind farm objectors – Irish Times” https://www.irishtimes.com/news/environment/european-court-upholds-claims-of-laois-wind-farm-objectors-1.3465503
“Opponents to Laois windfarm receive boost with EU court ruling – Irish Examiner” https://www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/opponents-to-laois-windfarm-receive-boost-with-eu-court-ruling-837809.html
“Court Ruling 12 April 2018 ECLI:EU:C:2018:244” http://curia.europa.eu/juris/document/document.jsf?text=&docid=200970&pageIndex=0&doclang=en&mode=req&dir=&occ=first&part=1&cid=619449

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