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New Forest Campsites Management

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”.
and that,
“ 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.
and
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.

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Protect Heathlands by Restricting Sky Lanterns and Fireworks Along With Barbecues

We believe the susceptibility of our heathlands to wildfires is the crux of the proposed public space protection order that seeks to ban barbecues on the Crown Lands.  The order ought to be expanded to restrict sky lanterns and fireworks, which would be just as likely to ignite a devastating blaze.

Our Trustee / Council member, Brian Tarnoff made this recommendation in a Presentment to the Verderers Court 16th November 2022.

NFDC Public Space Protection Orders and Heathland Fires
We broadly support both of the two PSPOs focussed on the Crown Lands, aimed at preventing wildfires, and banning the inappropriate feeding and petting of Forest Livestock.

The Dorset Open Land PSPO [*] which came into force on 1st July 2022 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 NFDC draft uses much the same language, but excludes restrictions on fireworks and sky lanterns.   All other extant PSPOs targeting wildfires on moorlands, coastal and heathland habitat have the same restrictions as Dorset. [†]

Over 190 councils in England have committed to banning sky lanterns, many have included this ban in their PSPOs.  Both Hampshire County Council and New Forest District Council have banned sky lanterns from events they permit on their own land.  (The National Park says they have banned sky lanterns on their web page on wildfires, but it is unclear if they have any practical way at their disposal to enforce this ban.)

NFDC may balk at inclusion by insisting that they need more direct evidence of the threat from sky lanterns and fireworks to progress the PSPO.  Clearly more than ten other authorities were able to meet the legal requirement for those prohibitions in their PSPOs.  It may be difficult to find specific remains of either fire source in the aftermath of a 200 hectare heathland fire, and if anything we’d rather not have further evidence beyond what a sensible risk analysis from the Fire Service might supply.  There is ample evidence that our heathlands will be susceptible to wildfires, we should guard against every probable source.

Sky lanterns and Fireworks ought to be added to the PSPO:

  • Consistent with best practice as shown in other PSPOs.
  • Consistent with rules of the authority on our Western border, where crossborder incidents have and may occur.
  • Balance of probability that the risk of wildfires to the public outweighs the negligible loss of enjoyment in the public space of these activities.
  • The increasing risk of summer wildfires as the effects of climate change continue.

We hope that the Verderers will consider this in their response to the consultation.

This is part of our series on PSPOs. Other articles include:
Our report on the NFDC PSPOs going forward to consultation on fires/barbecues and feeding/petting ponies.How Our Recommendations for Dog PSPO fit with New Forest Dog Walking Code, and Kennel Club Guidance (forthcoming)

ENDNOTES

[*] The Dorset Open Land Anti-social Behaviour Related Public Spaces Protection Order 2022  https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/w/public-space-protection-orders-for-anti-social-behaviour

Dorset’s BBQ and campfire/wildfire policy and sky lantern and balloon release Equality Impact Assessment

https://www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/w/bbq-and-campfire/wildfire-policy-and-sky-lantern-and-balloon-release-equality-impact-assessment-eqia-

[†] Other moorland, heathland and coastal habitat wildfire PSPO’s, all with the same restrictions as Dorset’s:

Dorset County Barnsley
Oldham Tameside
Kirklees City of Bradford
High Peak Borough Council Bolton Council
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council Sefton Metropolitan Borough Council
Calderdale West Yorkshire Newark and Sherwood District Council

 

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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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Campsites in the New Forest – Presentment

Over recent months, a national tender process has been underway to find a new operator for Forestry England campsites across England, including those here in the New Forest. For the New Forest campsites specifically, The New Forest Agricultural Show Society – through their trading company Camping in the New Forest Ltd – have been selected to move forward to the next stage and enter formal contract negotiations. Forestry England hope to be in a position to formally appoint them during October.

This information was included in the Official Verderer’s announcements at the meeting of the Verderers Court on 21st September; and Friends of the New Forest made the following Presentment during the meeting.

Presentment to the Court of Verderers – 21st September 2022

For some time our Association has been engaged in an ongoing correspondence with Forestry England head Office about various legal issues relating to the creation and management of Forestry England New Forest campsites; and the current process of re-tendering for their future management.

In addition and separate to these concerns, I am able to say that we fully support the views just expressed by Official Verderer in his announcement on this subject at the beginning of this meeting. (I might add that I should also say that I was pleased to hear what the Deputy Surveyor said about the future of New Forest campsites).

We hope that entering a new period of campsite management with a local organisation – The New Forest Agricultural Show Society – through their trading company Camping in the New Forest Ltd – will be an opportunity for a much needed a fresh start without any legacy legal problems from the present arrangements.

And that this will allow the creation of a new strategy for the location and management of Forestry England campsites, so that visitors may enjoy a rewarding New Forest holiday experience, while at the same time ensuring that the habitats and landscapes of the Forest and commoning are fully protected.

We look forward to participating with the New Forest Show Society and Forestry England to achieve this.

John Ward – Chairman: 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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Campsites on the Crown Lands : Our Statement to the New Forest National Park Authority

We highlight our concerns with Forestry England’s tender for their campsites on the protected habitat of the New Forest to the July 2022 meeting of the New Forest National Park Authority.  We also ask the National Park to reaffirm its commitment to working with their partners in Forestry England to deliver existing agreements and to insist that future alterations to the campsites be subject to planning under its control.

The New Forest is the only National Park in the United Kingdom with camping facilities built directly on the protected habitats their designations are meant to conserve.  Only one other Park in England allows camping on SSSI: Dartmoor’s very limited backpack camping (two nights and only small tents that may be carried to site on foot).

The campsites on the Crown Lands were established at a time when the then Forestry Commission were presumed to be exempt from planning (although it is unclear as to whether these exemptions are permitted under the New Forest Acts), when the New Forest SSSI had only recently been notified (1959 the same year that the FC and NCC signed a joint minute of intent recognising the importance of the New Forest as an area of National Nature Reserve Status), and did not yet have the stronger protections of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and subsequent SAC(2005), SPA (1993) and Ramsar (1993) designations.

These campsites would not be permitted if proposed today;  if the Verderers had consented to these campsites, it is unlikely that they would now allow them.

We welcome Forestry England’s (and Land Scotland) move to change management of their campsites as an opportunity to review the provision in the New Forest.  However, we have concerns about the tender which we have raised with FE. The Heads of Terms make no reference to the role of the Verderers or the rights of Commoners, nor do they set out obligations to deliver the statutory and policy commitments arising from designations.

Other inappropriate elements include :

  • ‘year-round’ camping
  • annual allowance for tree removal
  • on-site shops
  • pre-pitched “glamping” (both in conflict with agreements previously made with the Verderers);
  • no reference to the liabilities posed by free roaming semi-feral livestock.

Natural England’s SAC Management Plan for the New Forest 2001 prescribed the closure or relocation of Hollands Wood, Denny Wood, and Longbeech; part of a legally agreed SSSI management scheme.  In February 2010, this National Park adopted the Recreation Management Strategy 2010 – 2030 to which the Forestry Commission agreed as partners.  This included actions to audit campsite provision, and phased removal of the damaging sites [i]. Nevertheless, these sites are included in the current FE tender.

This National Park should encourage Forestry England to honour their agreements before engaging in new arrangements for the campsites.  You must also make the case to government and the nation that the protection of this designated National Park should not be reliant on revenue from an activity unquestionably damaging to its habitat.

When we had completed our 2010 Baseline Survey of the campsites [ii], we received verbal assurances that any future alterations would be subject to planning permission from this Authority.  We would like this Authority to reaffirm your own agreements and produce an unambiguous policy consistent with delivery of your first purpose and the Sandford Principle.

ENDNOTES and Attachments provided to the members of the National Park Authority.

Also please find attached 1) our letter to Forestry England of 22 June 2022, 2) our Presentment to the Verderers Court of 15 June 2022

Tender for the operator of New Forest campsites: Our Letter to Forestry England

Campsites on the Crown Lands: Presentment to Verderers Court June 2022

[i] New Forest National Park Recreation Management Strategy 2010 -2030, February 2010, pg.57

Priority actions for the next five years

6.4 Camping and caravanning

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

[ii] New Forest Camp site Baseline Survey: Final Report, Jonathan Cox with Mosaic Mapping, July 2010. (https://newforestassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Campsite_Survey.pdf)

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