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Forestry England Explores Other Revenue Sources

This article originally appeared in the 1st April, 2024 edition of the Lymington Tipster / NewMilton AdviceTouter and chances are they won’t cash-in regarding this reprint.

Lymington Tipster / NewMilton AdviceTouter speculator Wallis Hullaballou.

Central Government has put Forestry England in a terrible bind in their management of the New Forest.  The Minister’s Mandate for the Forest puts conservation of the natural and cultural heritage as chief objective, with both policy and legal obligations to preserve good quality habitat and restore declining areas.  Despite this, DEFRA only provides 12 % of their funding.   In an effort to cover flagging timber revenue, King’s House has proposed extending their honeypot ice cream van tender from five to seventeen of their 130 Car Parks with a modestly wider food and drink selection.  This has received push-back from village vendors, parish councillors, the CDA, Friends of the New Forest, and a dim view is expected from the Verderers who have standing to block the proposal.

John Ward, Chair of Friends of the New Forest has gone on record: “We’ve been concerned about FE’s proposals for food vans in their car parks, which would be inconsistent with obligations to their Site of Special Scientific Interest, and duties under both the Minister’s Mandate and S245 of the Levelling-up and Regeneration Act 2023 relating to National Park’s first Purpose: Conservation.  Additionally, food sales in Forest car parks can only increase adverse interactions between visitors and commoners’ stock.  With this in mind, we will fully support Forestry’s new plan to generate revenue while avoiding both danger to the public and animals, and those increased liabilities threatening Commoning.

Forestry England appear to have found such a solution, one which many authorities in similar positions have thought would revitalize their revenue.  On March 31st they announced a plan to open Casinos in an undisclosed number of car parks.

Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest, Craig “Le Chiffre” Harrison speaking in a hastily convened Easter Weekend Zoom Call with various Forest Stakeholders joining incongruously through Microsoft Teams (whilst this reporter listened in on a jerry-rigged iPhone taped to a Victrola), “Forestry England will be putting out a tender for a pilot scheme for licensed gambling restricted to the gravelled, hogginned or paved areas of car parks on the Crown Lands.  We are betting that this will both fulfil our requirements for revenue, and fund the many good works we do for Forest conservation, restoration, recreation and tourism.  Also, if anyone is in any doubt, that pun about betting was intentional.”

Balmer Lawn Cricket Pitch Converted to Craps Table

Greeting this announcement the way many greet indigestion, Official Verderer, Edward “Fast Eddie” Heron averred, “The Verderers were concerned that this plan would violate the stipulations in the New Forest Acts that prohibit FE from taking anything beyond timber from the Inclosures, but the plan to issue wooden gambling chips made on site cleverly skirts this legality.

Chief Exec of the New Forest National Park Authority, and person-too-polite-to-tell-you-you’ve-been-singing-off-key, Alison “All-In” Barnes, enthused “we welcome this boost to the local economy.  Although this is indifferent to our first two Purposes, 1 – Protect/Conserve and 2 – Understand/Enjoy, these are followed third by our Duty to seek to foster the economic and social well-being of the local communities; then fourth by the requirement to have our purposes furthered by others; then fifth by the intention to be honest, trustworthy and loyal;  sixth by that nagging feeling that we’re not sustainable because someone left the lights on; seventh our existential dread, and, finally by our deep seated need to please everyone even if it leaves us paralyzed and ineffective.”

Hawkhill Hold ‘Em Champion five years running, Forest polymath and international rally driver Richard “Double Down” Reeves explained unnecessarily, “Gambling here has a long history.  Several statues and also a temple altar of the gambling Goddess Fortuna, relics of Roman Britain including finds near the River Tyne, Bowes County Durham, and most recently Cockermouth Cumbria. Medieval Kings forbade gaming to most commoners, in the general sense….” Richard then proceeded to declaim the clauses from various Carta dating from 1190, as written in the specific legal Latin he’d autodidactified, until everyone on the call accepted both that he was exceptionally brilliant, and his withering disdain of their middle-class values.

Pony Powered Roulette wheel, design option 1.

 

Clive “The Cooler” Chatters, Natural England Verderer and man-so-amiable-when-destroying-your-argument-you-believe-he-agrees-with-you,  “We think it’s unethical to bet on whether conservation targets are met, although strangely enough the odds on the Government meeting its ’30×30′ goal to protect 30% of the UK by 2030 are 30 to 1,  the 25 Year Environment Plan goal to restore 75% of our SSSIs to favourable condition by 2042 is at 75 to 1, and meeting the climate change goal of Net Zero by 2050 is at 100 to 1.  If the accumulator comes in, at least I’ll be able to afford two seats on Elon’s rocket to Mars.”

Chair of the Croupiers and Dealers Association (formerly Commoners Defence), Anthony “Ace in the Hole” Parry-Norton, boomed convincingly, “It’s a delicate time, the slim upside of the end of the Basic Payment Scheme was losing its undue influence on stock numbers.  Pressure to depasture more stock just to cover the point spread on Drift predictions is unwelcome.  On the other hand, we are looking into whether the Commoning community would once again invoke the ancient right of Turbary, the right to the Turf.

Jen “The Favourite” Thomas, current Natural England ecologist (equivalent in old money = four Natural England ecologists) opined, “Many of the Forest’s SSSI Units are in Unfavourable-Declining Condition, but under this plan they may be re-evaluated.  The Going of the boggy areas has already been noted as Heavy (Good to Soft in some places), however we must watch out for the Mires going Good to Firm under climate change, which is why we back Wetland Restoration for the win.”

Pony Driven Roulette Wheel for Beaulieu Road Sales Yard, artist’s conception

Head Agister, and hat stand, Jonathan “Set Thorns Slim” Gerrelli, weighed in, “We’ll have to closely monitor the effect of the Casinos on the herds.  For instance, we won’t allow complimentary drinks being served to high rollers, particularly in the winter months, livestock may be drawn to the salt on margarita glasses.  Although studies have shown that it is unlikely that horses can count above six, given previous learned behaviour, we’ll be keeping the donkeys away from the blackjack tables, as I wouldn’t put card-counting past them.”

Anthony “Tony the Trowel” Pasmore, elected Verderer, LT columnist and man who knows where the boiling mounds are buried, predicted, “Of course there are concerns that this may attract an unsavoury element.  The Forest has always been able to take care of itself.  Bogs and acid soil have ways of helping problems, erm, disappear…”

John “Trifecta Trike Johnny” Ward, Chair of, only just during this article renamed, Friends and Partners of the New Forest, hedged diplomatically “Until a thorough Habitats Regulation Assessment has been done, we’ll have to keep a watching brief. We’ve already had word from bat specialists, (not even on this call, but that hearing, eh?) that fruit machine sounds may disturb the common pipistrelle.  Who knows what other issues will arise?  If this goes terribly wrong, we don’t want anyone shrugging it off as: What happens in Wilverley, stays in Wilverley.”

Next up:  Natural England in talks with National Park to downgrade “robust” areas of New Forest from Triple to Double “S” I.  Coming in time for Christmas: “ESCALADO: New Forest Point-to-Point edition”.
Finally, The New Forest Pony Breeding & Cattle Society has asked us to remind riders with spirited ponies, should they prance across the Forest this Spring, “Please gambol responsibly.”

Thanks and/or apologies to John Brandrick’s Mill Drawings web site and Brockenhurst Cricket Club, for playing fast and loose with their images.

UPDATE:
As of 12 pm today, the book on these proposals changed with odds thoroughly against.  It appears everyone, including our jackpot chasing author, was bluffing.  We hope that any one mentioned will not view us with snake eyes, and we can call it even.If you fancy a punt on previous year’s silliness, a 2018 report on leaked plans for the Recreation Management Strategy. and this 2019 article detailing an unusual rewilding proposal from Chris Packham.

 

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Public Spaces Protection Orders And The New Forest

New Forest District Council has sent two draft Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPO) , which we broadly support, for public consultation.  The first to ban the lighting of fires and use of BBQs (principally on the Crown Lands), and the second to ban the feeding and petting of ponies, horses, mules, and donkeys in the open areas of the New Forest.  The consultation runs for nearly 8 weeks from  Monday 6th December 2022 to Friday 27th January 2023.

In this second in the series on PSPO’s we explain what they can (and can’t) do for the New Forest.

What are PSPO’s and what can they do for the Forest?

Public Spaces Protection Orders prohibit anti-social behaviours or require certain restrictions on activities within a given public space.  This allows councils to individually target public nuisances in their area.  Typically targets include alcohol consumption, use of “legal” highs, lighting fires or BBQs.  More unusual orders involve intentional feeding of gulls, busking, flying drones, dangerous cycling/skateboarding, and releasing balloons.  The most common type of PSPO across all councils are for dog control; primarily dog fouling, but also conditional lead requirements and exclusion zones (usually sports ground and children’s play areas).

This may sound like councils are given free reign to attack any bugbear of the local populace, however the council must produce evidence that the target behaviour is detrimental to those in the locality, is persistent, is unreasonable, and justifies restrictions imposed under the order.  Guidance suggests that councils look for other ways to address each issue, in some instances existing laws or voluntary codes of conduct or other initiatives may achieve sufficient compliance with rules.  PSPOs should be used responsibly and proportionately in response to issues that cause anti-social behaviour and where necessary to protect the public.

As a minimum, each PSPO must set out:

  • what the detrimental activities are
  • what is being prohibited and/or required, including any exemptions
  • the area covered
  • the consequences for breach
  • the period for which it has effect.

Consequences are usually the imposition of fixed penalty notices (varying between £50-150, frequently £100).  A PSPO can last for up to three years, after which it must be reviewed. If the review supports an extension and other requirements are satisfied, it may be extended for up to a further three years. There is no limit on the number of times an Order may be reviewed and renewed.  PSPOs may be subject to legal challenge, poorly worded or shoddily evidenced orders have been successfully challenged.[i]

To give an example of how a PSPO may work in practice:  a 2015 PSPO from North East Derbyshire District Council reportedly banned golf equipment from an area of a park.  As noted, each PSPO only operates within a defined public space within a council area.  The area was “the open park areas at and surrounding the Hut and BMX track” in Mickley.   Evidently the public nuisance was caused by golfers practicing in an area unsafe for users of the adjacent BMX track.  The PSPO was not extended beyond its first three year term, so ostensibly the temporary ban effectively reduced, eliminated, or changed the target behaviour.

While more perennial behaviours may not be so easily altered, the built in three year maximum forces a review before any extension.  A 2015 PSPO which rightfully targeted hooliganism in Salford Quays: jumping from bridges, throwing wheelie bins or animals into the water, interfering with lifesaving equipment, also included a widely derided ban on “foul and abusive language”.   Free speech advocates challenged this, and this clause was dropped from subsequent versions, without recourse to a judicial review.

PSPOs and The Forest

PSPOs were established within the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014.  Although the powers have existed for eight years, the two NFDC orders going forward to consultation are the first that this District Council have proposed.  It is apparent that they have wisely waited to benefit from the experiences of implementations elsewhere in the country, and to gather supporting evidence for their proposals.

Over the past few years the Park Authority, Forestry England, Verderers, Recreation Management Strategy and other key Forest groups have discussed with NFDC the possibility that PSPOs might address a range of issues on the Crown Lands including:

  • Parking on verges
  • Wild camping
  • Wild fires and BBQs
  • Out of control dogs
  • Feeding and petting of animals
  • Cycling off the permitted network

However, some of these don’t easily fit PSPO criteria.  Parking on verges is primarily an environmental issue for its material damage to the SSSI.   Establishing that it is necessary to protect the public is limited to instances where verge parking blocks gateways for emergency vehicles.  Both wild camping and off network cycling have a similarly tenuous case under PSPO criteria, and are already addressed under existing byelaws.

Verge Restoration Before / After

The two issues, wildfires and BBQs, and the feeding and petting of livestock, NFDC have now moved forward fit the criteria.   Wildfires are an obvious danger to the public, the subsequent devastation may also be viewed as detrimental to public enjoyment.  Feeding and/or petting of Forest livestock for all of its ill effects on the animals and their owners, also causes behaviours in the animals that make them a danger to the public.   When inappropriately fed, semi-feral animals or those protecting their young may become aggressive, and some animals will loiter more frequently and dangerously near roads.  These problems are well evidenced as may be seen in the documents available in the consultation.

When we suggested that the Council should also move forward with a dog control PSPO, they demurred “It was felt there was not enough evidence at the current time to take this matter forward.  However, it could be considered in the future.”  Ironically one of the evidence documents, cited to support the feeding ponies PSPO, detailing incidents in 2018, showed “Dogs worrying livestock” made up 33% of incidents reported to the Verderers.  So while that issue is off the table for now, the upside is that all Forest stakeholders, including dog owners, have an opportunity to help craft an order consistent with the already agreed upon code of conduct.

Education and Enforcement

PSPOs confer a duty on the authority to provide adequate signage to indicate where they are in effect.  Signage in the Forest has always been a tug of war between positive education and minimizing urban clutter in our idyllic landscape.  No doubt this will be another tricky series of discussions.  One of the reasons we’d hoped to add a Dog Control PSPO to this round of consultation was to save the effort and expense of reinventing that inevitable wheel.

Enforcement will be through fixed penalty notices issued by authorised personnel, representatives of the council or another nominated authority.  From the minutes of the NFDC Cabinet meeting:

It was reported that there had been discussion with the National Park Authority, Verderers and Forestry England and it had been accepted in principle that they would play a lead role in the enforcement of the PSPO activities, should they be introduced.

So it is likely, but still to be determined, that this will fall to the Rangers of both the National Park and Forestry England, potentially other staff.  There will be training and resource issues for any of the organizations that come forward.

At the November 2nd Cabinet meeting, in response to a query whether the PSPO should include the touching and petting of ponies, supposing the feeding was the strongest factor for behavioural change, Council Leader Edward Heron, after defending the inclusion of all these actions, characterized a balanced view for enforcement:

The idea is not to be lurking in the bushes with your book of tickets to leap out. The answer is, the ability is there if you are in one of the car parks, if you are talking about one of the Forestry England Rangers or one of the National Park Rangers talking to people. And there is someone walking into a herd of ponies and petting and stroking them.  And they tell them not to, and explain why.  And then asked them more firmly not to, and explain why, and the fact that they are perhaps taking their children in and risking them doing this. Yes. At some point, should they consider it appropriate and proportionate to do so, I want them to have the option to issue this penalty. Again. I really hope.  I don’t think anyone wants this to be a place where we’re out issuing penalties. Everyone wants this to be a place where everyone can enjoy the Forest, whether they live here, work here, visit here in a way that’s responsible, in a way that preserves it, in a way that keeps them all safe.

Public Spaces Protection Orders are not going to be an all singing, all dancing solution to the ills of the Forest.   However, they will be a tool, which used sensibly may raise the profile of the issues they address, give bite to those education messages and promise consequences for those who feel all too entitled to ignore them.

In This Series —

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

Subsequently:

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

Protect Heathlands by Restricting Sky Lanterns and Fireworks Along With Barbecues — A Presentment to the Verderers about the Wildfires PSPO

Coming:

PSPOs for the Dog Control in the Forest: Our Recommendations For a Draft Dog Control PSPO, how they stack up against existing guidance, and What the Kennel Club Says About PSPOs

ENDNOTES

[i] Richmond Dog control order was partially quashed:
https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media-centre/2018/april/victory-for-dog-owners-in-uks-first-successful-pspo-legal-challenge/
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/04/13/dogs-can-urinate-lampposts-court-rules/

https://www.lag.org.uk/article/205493/challenging-public-spaces-protection-orders

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Guest Post: Cycling: Improving the Off-road Network And Reduce Highly Charged Debate

Furthering positive discussion of recreation in the New Forest, we feature this guest statement by Richard Taylor, given as a Presentment to the November 2022 Verderers Court on behalf of the New Forest Cycle Working Group.

Good morning – my name is Richard Taylor, and I’m here to make a presentment as the chair of the New Forest Cycle Working Group.

In the recent discussions in the Verderers Court around cycling in the New Forest the voice of the cycling community has not been heard and we would like to try and correct this.

The Cycle working Group is an independent group and has been established for many years.  Its aim is to promote, and contribute to the delivery of, cycling-related objectives in many local strategic plans, and to promote opportunities to improve cycle infrastructure.  Our membership includes local cycle groups, local cycle businesses, national cycling organisations, sustainable transport groups, local councils at all levels, Forestry England and the New Forest National Park Authority.

We aim to encourage responsible cycling in the New Forest to minimise conflict with the special qualities of the National Park and other people, and to improve usability and connectivity of the cycle network.

Excerpt of the New Forest Off Road Cycle Network (Blue + Red Sustrans Routes) from OpenCycleMap

Improvements to the connectivity and waymarking of the off-road gravel cycle network have been promised for many years. These objectives are outlined in strategic action 14 of the Recreation Management Strategy which has been agreed by all partner organisations.  We fully support the vision for the cycle network as presented by Richard Burke of Forestry England.

We are delighted to hear support from the Verderers for the cycle network and we fully agree that improvements and revisions to the network must include,

preservation of the tranquil and undisturbed areas, links to the car parks, the interests of nature conservation and protection of the fragile environment together with the interest of the commoners … as well as the interests of those who wish to use the Forest for recreation.’

However, with all this agreement on the objectives for cycling in the Forest, progress to achieving this has been non-existent, to the huge frustration of the cycling community, and cyclists continue to be demonised.

The vast majority of cyclists on the off-road network want to cycle responsibly respecting the special qualities of the New Forest.  The health and wellbeing benefits of cycling are well documented and increased use of carbon free transport is universally accepted as a good thing.  However, the network as it currently exists is not fit for purpose, it is poorly connected, and badly waymarked.  Mapping could be improved for both physical and online maps, and it needs to be clear to existing and new cyclists which maps should be used.  The CWG are there to try and help this process in any way we can.  We have provided feedback on what connections on the network would be most valuable to cyclists and we have engaged fully with the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan process currently underway.

We would ask the Verderers to engage positively with all other stakeholders in the process of improving the off-road network.  We all need to reduce the highly charged tabloid nature of the current debate and concentrate on producing solutions that work.  We want to help with this process in any way that we can.  We can provide feedback and information from the cycling community and help promote responsible cycling practices.  Surely essential elements in this process.

The recent BBC panorama ‘Road Rage – Cars v Bikes’ showed how easy it is to whip up feelings on all sides of the argument around cycling.  However, this serves little point other than to keep social media busy and sell papers.  Please can all parties involved engage positively to find practical solutions which work.

Thank you.

We share this statement by kind permission of both Richard Taylor and the New Forest Cycle Working Group. Mr. Taylor is also a Minstead Parish Councillor since 2010 and currently serves as a parish quadrant appointee member of the National Park Authority for whom his responsibilities include RMS Advisory Group Chair, and NPA representative on the New Forest Local Access Forum.

 

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

New Forest District Council has sent two draft Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) for the Forest to address fires, barbecues, pony feeding and petting to public consultation which will run from Monday 6th December 2022 to Friday 27th January 2023.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 –

4

2017 –

3

2018 –

16

2019 –

18

2020 –

74

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

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

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

Coming In This Series:

What are Public Space Protection Orders and what can they do for the Forest?

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

Protect Heathlands by Restricting Sky Lanterns and Fireworks Along With Barbecues — A Presentment to the Verderers about the Wildfires PSPO

PSPOs for the Dog Control in the Forest: Our Recommendations For a Draft Dog Control PSPO, how they stack up against existing guidance, and What the Kennel Club Says About PSPOs

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Byelaw Watch Report 2022

The FoNF 2022 Byelaw Watch Report has been published.

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

Click 2022 BYELAW WATCH to read the full report.

 

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Verderers Announcements & Decisions : Cycling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newly Appointed Verderers – Mark Gammon & Clive Chatters

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

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

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

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

Dogs

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

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

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

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

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

Brambles

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

Marking Fees For 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presentment to the Court of Verderers – 21st September 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One unfortunate volunteer even reported to being verbally abused.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Update On Byelaw Watch 2022

With just under one week to go of the August Free Range Byelaw Watch here is a quick update of the outcome up to 15th August 2022. We have received 180 responses by 65 or so volunteers reporting multiple breaches of the byelaws. Some of the themes emerging include:

Off road cycling on the Open Forest is widespread even with reports of cycling at night!
Verge parking is common in particular locations
Litter – some of a really worrying nature – and dog faeces are everywhere. 100 instances of dog waste were recorded by one observer within 300 metres of one car park.
Other notable instances include fishing and swimming, a burnt out car and evidence of campfires, and a pony being hit to move it off the road

Full results will be available when we have had time to look at and assess the data after the end of the Watch, but in the meantime do keep an eye out for Byelaw Breaches until the end of the watch on 31st August.

We have a simple online form to use with details of the Byelaws causing the most concern. The form can be accessed and completed online using your smart phone, tablet or computer using this link:
BYELAWS WATCH FORM

The Static Byelaw Watch is ready to go at popular locations around the Forest on Bank Holiday Monday thanks to our volunteers – no doubt they would welcome back up if you are free!
To volunteer to help with this please contact:
secretary.fonf@gmail.com

The raw data from these surveys will only be accessible to Council Members of the Friends of the New Forest and will be compliant with GDPR requirements, and only appropriately anonymised and aggregated data and photos will be provided to the New Forest authorities and released to the public.

Thank you in advance for taking part in the Byelaw Watch 2022. Your participation is vitally important to inform the future protection of the New Forest.

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Byelaws Watch Survey 2022

CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS

The New Forest is in theory protected by byelaws that aim to conserve the Forest, preserve its tranquillity, and regulate recreational use – the Forestry Commission, the National Trust and the Verderers all issue and can enforce byelaws. Yet with an increase in those visiting the Forest, it is clear that few know what they say and unfortunately, they are often overlooked or ignored.

In October 2021 the Friends of the New Forest conducted a pilot survey that recorded almost 3,000 breaches of the Byelaws – and we know that is an under-recording!

This pilot has already provided useful independent evidence to highlight the importance of byelaws and has attracted both local and national press attention, but more independent evidence is needed to raise awareness of the byelaws and support effective measures to protect the Forest against those activities causing most concern.

WE NEED YOUR HELP to repeat the Byelaw Watch this summer

Concentrating on the Forestry Commission byelaws, we need volunteers willing to record the byelaw breaches they observe in two ways.

You can participate by:

Free-Range Recording – when you are about and about in the Forest – perhaps walking, bird watching, or horse riding – record the breaches you observe.

We have a simple online form to use with details of the Byelaws causing the most concern. The form can be accessed and completed online using your smart phone, tablet or computer using this link:
BYELAWS WATCH FORM

The survey may be completed on any date between 26th July and 31st August 2022. You may submit as many forms as you wish.
If you find it easier, you can print out this short PAPER BYELAWS WATCH FORM form to record what you see and then either send this to us or submit the results using the online form when you get home. All you need to do is record what you have seen and submit it to us, we will do the rest.

AND/OR by:

Fixed Site Recording – sit for an hour or so at popular sites in the Forest over the Bank Holiday weekend and record the breaches you observe. The number of sites we survey will depend on the number of volunteers but will include places like Boltons Bench and Bolderwood.

This survey will run in increments of one hour between 9.00am and 5.00pm
To take part in this survey please email your name to: secretary.fonf@gmail.com
and we will send you more information

The raw data from these surveys will only be accessible to Council Members of the Friends of the New Forest and will be compliant with GDPR requirements, and only appropriately anonymised and aggregated data and photos will be provided to the New Forest authorities and released to the public.

Thank you in advance for taking part in the Byelaw Watch 2022. Your participation is vitally important to inform the future protection of the New Forest.

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