|Friends of The New Forest have been concerned and critical about many aspects of the process being undertaken by Forestry England to tender for the management of New Forest campsites. The New Forest Agricultural Show Society have been successful in their bid to take on the running of the sites.
At the 16th November 2022 meeting of the Court of Verderers, John Ward, The FoNF chairman, made the following presentment to the Court on behalf of the Association.
MANAGEMENT of NEW FOREST CAMPSITES
For some considerable time our Association has been concerned about the running of Forestry Commission campsites within the New Forest, both in terms of their location and harmful impacts of some campsites contrary to the SAC management plan to which an operator should pay heed, and to various issues regarding their general management.
We also have an ongoing dispute with the headquarters of Forestry England regarding the legal basis on which campsites are run, including the requirement for Verderers’ consent and whether a contract to do so should be a personal licence and not a registerable lease.
Against this background we have hoped that the re-tendering process for appointing a new organisation to manage the New Forest campsites may be an opportunity for a much needed fresh start.
We note that the New Forest Show Society operating as ‘Camping in the New Forest’ is the prospective new manager and that they have applied for the consent of the Verderers.
We have also noted that in their application CINF recognise that for too long there has been damage to the local environment, a lack of respect for the working of the Forest and poor investment in facilities, and that they state:
“Our plan will be to run the sites profitably but with the environment, education, and community at the heart of every decision”.
“ We will be setting up an advisory group to provide guidance on key decisions and to help guide future aspirations ensuring we respect the New Forest, the livestock and the Commoners.”
CINF recognise that a key aspect of working together would be a full review of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech campsites.
We welcome the opportunity the Forest now has to move forward with a new 10 year period for the management of the campsites by a new licensed operator based within the Forest, and we would hope to play a full and supportive part within the proposed Advisory Group.
We are, therefore, supportive in principle of CINF running the New Forest campsites subject to more information and confirmation of the points that I have outlined.
We support the required consent being given by the Court of Verderers
|At the same meeting Richard Reeves, who is a member of the FoNF Council but was speaking for himself, made the following presentment.|
HOLLANDS WOOD, DENNY WOOD and LONGBEECH CAMPSITES
I hereby object to any lease or similar agreement which provides for the continued operation of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech Campsites (these being those identified as causing serious damage to the Forest habitats in which they are situated and have been flagged as priorities for closure under the 2001 SAC Management Plan. Both the Verderers and Forestry Commission were signatories to this plan, yet, 21 years later, nothing has been done.
Forestry England (and their predecessors) have had plenty of time to get their house in order but have failed to move forward, instead preferring to kick the issue into the long grass. Many false and misleading statements have been made in support of keeping the status quo, tellingly by those with their own narrow self-interest at heart.
The suggestion that the potential new tenants would somehow be able to avoid causing further damage is ludicrous, while the argument that the impact of such damage could be offset by an organisation’s good works in other fields is nothing more than whitewashing. It is akin to claiming to love and care for a child, while selling their organs.
The actions of Forestry England in attempting to find a new tenant for these three sites are hypocritical in the extreme, and hardly demonstrate a safe pair of hands. Still, I hope and trust the Verderers will side with the New Forest.