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PSPOs for the Dog Control in the Forest (and what the Kennel Club say about PSPOs)

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 fifth in the series on PSPO’s we give our recommendations For a Draft Dog Control PSPO, how they stack up against existing guidance, and What the Kennel Club Says About PSPOs.

Kennel Club and PSPO:
When PSPOs were first introduced to replace Dog Control Orders in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, the Kennel Club were supportive of their use for irresponsible dog owners under the previous Dog Control Orders, but worried chiefly about the impact on responsible dog walkers, and unhappy with how some councils brought them forward.  2015 DEFRA guidance added dog law and welfare experts to the list of PSPO consultees which already included the Kennel Club.  In their 2016 report on PSPOs “Out Of Order – The Impact Of Access Restrictions On Dogs And Their Owners” the Kennel Club cite instances of councils imposing orders without deeming consultation necessary, a council erecting restriction signage before the consultation had finished, and councils either not including exemptions for registered blind people and assistance dogs or not providing suitable alternative space where their needs could be met.

In 2018 they trumpeted a victory over legal challenge of overly broad language in Richmond dog’s PSPO.

The parts of the order which were successfully challenged and which were quashed included that a person could be found guilty of an offence if their dog ‘causes an annoyance to another person or animal’ or ‘causes damage to any Council structure, equipment, tree, turf or other Council property’, which could include damage to grass from urination.[*]

While the language is indeed questionable, there seems no evidence that anyone was ever charged with “lawn damage”.  The judge ruled that the annoyance provision added nothing to the provision on keeping a dog under control, and that there was insufficient evidence to demonstrate a need for the prohibition on causing damage as defined in the order. The restriction limiting dog numbers per walker was upheld at 4, although 18 professional dog walkers may be licensed for 6, and residents may walk up to 6 under a permit system.  Currently 12 of the 18 available Richmond licenses are in use.

Many of the Kennel Club’s initial reservations seem to have now been addressed.  Councils uniformly carry out consultation on PSPOs and include exemptions, some go as far as carrying out Equality Impact Assessments to show that no group is unduly disadvantaged by the order.  Their chief concerns continue to be any blanket restrictions that require full time use of leads, restrictions to areas insufficient for needs of local walkers, lack of suitable alternatives and possible displacement to less appropriate areas by those avoiding the restrictions.

 

Our Recommendations:
In creating our recommendations for a Dog Control Public Space Protection Order for the New Forest we reviewed over 50 PSPOs enacted throughout the country, Kennel Club guidance for their members subject to PSPO rules, and most importantly the New Forest Dog Walkers Code, voluntary guidance approved and partially authored by the stakeholders in the New Forest Dog Forum, including the local New Forest Dog Owners Group (NFDOG).

These are our suggestions for rules that may be enforced through a PSPO:

  • Lead “by direction” — this mirrors existing Forestry byelaw which says if an authorised officer (i.e. Forest Ranger, etc) asks someone to put their dog on lead, they should.
  • Leads required in ground nesting bird season in those areas where FC have put “red zone” signs close to curlew and other specific territories.
  • Leads required on portions of the proposed England Coast Path that are adjacent to fields with livestock, or adjacent to important coastal habitats.
  • Out of control dogs worrying/chasing/attacking livestock.
  • Persistent dog fouling of car parks and paths.
  • Leaving bagged faeces (Littering).

We’ll consider these each in turn as to how they stack up against the Dog Forum and Kennel Club guidance, and other PSPOs throughout the UK.

 

Lead “by direction”

Kennel Club Guidance:
Dogs on lead by direction
‘Dogs on lead by direction’ orders require owners to put their dogs on a lead when instructed to by an authorised officer. Enforcement officers could include parks police or a dog control officer. These measures allow responsible dog owners to exercise their dogs off lead without restriction – providing that their dogs are under control – whilst giving local authorities the power to restrict dogs not under control.
New Forest Dog Walkers Code:

  • Carry a lead for each dog in your care.
  • Keep dogs on leads in and around car parks and alongside roads.
  • Always keep all dogs under effective control; if you cannot reliably and quickly call your dog back to you and away from people or other dogs, please keep it on a lead.

This is one of the most standard PSPO restrictions, and existed previously under many Dog Control Orders.  It also echoes Forestry Commission byelaw 5.xiv. “No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners: … on being requested by an officer of the Commissioners, fail to keep the dog on a leash;” [†]  The Kennel Club support these orders as they allow responsible dog owners who keep their dogs under control to exercise off lead.

 

Leads required in ground nesting bird season in those areas where FC have put “red zone” signs close to curlew and other specific territories.

Kennel Club Guidance:

Dogs on lead
Orders which require owners to put their dogs on leads in certain areas often do so for the safety of dogs, their owners, and other nearby members of the public. These measures may apply to car parks, pavements near the road, and picnic areas. We can support reasonable ‘dogs on lead’ orders when used in a proportionate and evidence-based way.

Blanket ‘dogs on lead’ restrictions can prevent dog owners and their dogs from getting their appropriate daily exercise, including ‘regular opportunities to walk and run’ – which in most cases, will be off the lead while still under control.

Kennel Club on Displacement and Wildlife[ ]:

Another common unintended consequence is displacement onto inappropriate land, typically land where livestock or sensitive wildlife is present, resulting in new conflict being created.

Thanet Dog Control PSPO:

6. Failing to protect wildlife

A person in charge of a dog shall be guilty of an offence if, at any time, within the administrative area of the Authority, they fail to protect wildlife by allowing dog(s) and humans to interfere with, trap or attempt to trap or snare, chase or disturb any wildlife on council owned or controlled land.

New Forest Dog Walkers Code:

  • Keep your dog to the main tracks when birds are nesting on the ground (usually March – July).

Again this suggestion is echoed in Forestry Commission byelaws 5. “No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners: xii. permit any animal in his charge to be out of control; xiv. permit a dog for which he is responsible to disturb, worry or chase any bird or animal…;” [§] Some existing Dog Control PSPOs directly include a failure to protect wildlife offence (i.e. Thanet). The Kennel Club raises concerns with restrictions or exclusions which lead to displacement to more sensitive areas, arguably an understatement that the New Forest SSSI is such an area.  It is doubtful that the Kennel Club would shirk seasonal restrictions to a small portion of this protected habitat as they clearly recognize the need to keep walkers to more appropriate access areas.

 

Leads required on portions of the proposed England Coast Path that are adjacent to fields with livestock, or adjacent to important coastal habitats
The incredibly delicate and high value of the New Forest’s coastal habitats have unfortunately shown many of the shortcomings in the England Coast Path as defined by legislation.  Because of this, the Highcliffe to Calshot stretch of the path has still not been approved by the Secretary of State. (Our ongoing discussion of these wider Coast Path issues may be found here.)

The England Coast Path proposal creates potential new access to previously undisturbed areas. Although the proposals already include some stretches that Natural England say require leads, they have ignored their own guidance regarding livestock, and ignored potential damage to our most sensitive coastal habitats.  We think the most comprehensive solution would be to require dogs to be put on leads for all sections adjacent to fields with livestock or areas of habitat conservation value.  This would protect Forest stock on back up grazing, and areas for breeding or over wintering bird populations that are key elements of the New Forest’s legal conservation designations.

While the Kennel Club guidance does not go as far as this very specific instance, it is reasonable to apply their notes in reference to protecting livestock (see below) and avoiding displacement to such protected areas (see above).

New Forest Dog Walkers Code:

  • Throughout the year, avoid disturbing coastal birds by exercising your dogs away from them.

None of our proposals about the use of leads are blanket applications of the sort the Kennel Club would say unduly restrict exercise.  However, how well they fit all the PSPO criteria may need further discussion.

 

Out of control dogs worrying/chasing/attacking livestock.

Kennel Club Guidance:
Displacement occurs when restrictive measures result in dog walkers moving to other pieces of land, resulting in the creation of new conflicts. For example, a local authority may introduce measures excluding dogs from a particular area – like a local park or playing fields – which could subsequently result in dog walkers finding an alternative yet unsuitable location, such as a field with grazing livestock. It is important that councils consider the suitability of alternative sites when imposing restrictions in order to prevent displacement from occurring.New Forest Dog Walkers Code:

  • Do not allow your dog to chase or attack livestock, deer or any other wildlife.
  • Keep your distance from grazing animals, especially mothers and their young.
  • Keep well away from any work taking place such as forestry and pony round-ups, and observe warning signage.

While most existing codes of conduct find these behaviours unacceptable, the law, in the main, applies to the rights of the landowner to protect their livestock.  A notion complicated on the common, open access lands of the New Forest.  Ironically, NFDC’s evidence for their PSPO to stop the public from feeding and petting Forest livestock, included a report by Dr. Jo Ivey that showed a third of 2018 incidents reported to Verderers were of dogs attacking livestock[◊].

 

Persistent dog fouling of car parks and paths.

Kennel Club Guidance:
Dog fouling measures promote responsible dog ownership by requiring that dog owners pick up after their dogs wherever they are, which could include fields and woods in the wider countryside. Following these orders are vital. In areas where farm animal graze, for example, dog fouling measures should be strictly followed in order to reduce the risk of passing Neospora and Sarcocystosis to cattle and sheep respectively.Having the ‘means to pick up’ means that dog owners, when directed by an authorised officer of the council, must be able to produce a waste bag or other suitable means for removing dog faeces and transporting it to a bin. Responsible dog owners will usually have dog waste bags or other devices to clear up after their pets, so following this order shouldn’t be a problem.
New Forest Dog Walkers Code:

  • Pick up after your dog; put bagged dog poo in a dog waste bin or litter bin, or take it home.

The Kennel Club expresses unequivocal support for failure to pick up, despite previous concerns expressed in their 2016 document, they now accept “means to pick up” orders.  Although we would naturally want to advance a more stringent version of the order, for protection of habitat and livestock, our suggestion follows the guidance for PSPOs which unfortunately excludes these factors, but is concerned with persistent nuisance in the public space, which, at the very least includes paths and car parks.  We may find other stakeholders amenable to a wider version of this, but this minimum start point is a way forward that would be difficult to oppose.


Leaving bagged faeces (Littering).
For some incomprehensible reason there is a subset of dog walkers who fully accept and follow the guidance to pick up and bag their dog’s faeces, but are blithe to the obvious requirement to dispose of the bags responsibly.  Whether you’d rationalize it as unintentional littering, or left in a spot they mean to return to so as not to bear the burden throughout their walk, it is unacceptable laziness.  Leaving the bags behind alone is a hazard for wildlife and livestock on the Forest, leaving poo bagged creates a toxic timebomb, a petri dish for growth of the bacterial nasties in the poo.  Whether this should be part of a Littering or Dog Control PSPO, it merits a circle in Dante, and in some quarters already has campaigns targeting just this behaviour.

What Have We Left Out?
Many existing Dog Control PSPOs have limitations on the numbers of dogs per walker, usually between four and six (inclusive, for the pedants shouting “five”).  We would support such a limitation, if Forest stakeholders would agree.  The question may be difficult to address fairly: some owners seem to be unable to adequately control one dog off lead, where others may be able to marshal eight effectively.  The expected argument being : should some be disadvantaged by the weaker links?

Oddly enough, the Kennel Club’s current guidance doesn’t address this at all, nor their earlier 2016 assessment, which mentions per walker numbers in passing as one of the features of the DCOs preceding PSPO.  The Kennel Club did praise a change to  Wyre Forest’s Dog Control PSPO which increased their limit from three to six, characterizing the original as an unfair blanket restriction. [**]  Though the notion was under discussion in the formulation of the New Forest Dog Walkers Code, no agreed restriction survived the final draft.  The Professional Dog Walkers’ Charter [] includes a maximum of six dogs per walker.  We were unable to endorse this charter primarily as it does not address the commercial use of the Crown Lands done outside the standard permission system, but also because we felt that six is not a realistic number for one person to adequately control off lead dogs on the Forest.

For both the dog fouling and leads requirements some PSPOs also include a stipulation to show that walkers are in possession of the equipment necessary to follow restrictions; for instance, specifying having the “means to pick up”, as their lack is tantamount to an intention to ignore the responsibility imposed by the order.  However, including a power for authorised persons under the order to ask members of the public to produce their leads and poo bags as proof of compliance, may not square with the more education based and light touch enforcement which seems to be the current intention.  These may only bear inclusion if requested by all Forest stakeholders, the authorities tasked with enforcement and New Forest District Council.

Hopefully, the other measures we propose, if given consideration and support, might advance the cause of responsible dog ownership in the New Forest, without recourse to more extensive rules.  We look forward to discussion with other Forest groups, we believe these proposals would be a good starting point.  Together we can offer New Forest District Council a sound way forward to a Dog Control PSPO.

In This Series —

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

Public Spaces Protection Orders And The New 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

Coming:

 

ENDNOTES:

[*] 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.richmond.gov.uk/services/parks_and_open_spaces/pspos_and_byelaws

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

[†] From the Forestry Commission Byelaws:


Acts Prohibited on the Lands of the Commissioners

  1. No person shall in or on the lands of the Commissioners:-

xii. permit any animal in his charge to be out of control;

xiv. permit a dog for which he is responsible to disturb, worry or chase any bird or animal or,  on being requested by an officer of the Commissioners, fail to keep the dog on a leash;

https://www.forestryengland.uk/sites/default/files/documents/Forestry%20Commission_Byelaws.pdf

[ ] Out of Order, 2016, pg 12.

[§] Ibid., Forestry Commission Byelaws

[◊] The Portfolio holder responded to our suggestion of a Dog Control PSPO “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.  This approach had been accepted by partner organisations.”  One of the evidence documents, cited to support the feeding ponies PSPO, a report by Dr. Jo Ivey collating incidents in 2018 made to either Camping in the Forest staff or to the Verderers Office showed Dogs worrying livestock made up 8% of the CITF incidents, and 33% of Verderers incidents. This included:

  • Camper set dog on a pony: dog got kicked.
  • Shetland foal missing from Lyndhurst Racecourse was discovered 48 hours later in Bartley after having been chased and mauled by dogs, bites to face and body, one ear completely bitten off the other hanging off and was later removed by vet.
  • Foal attacked by dog resulting in foal suffering a broken leg. Foal dispatched by Agister and dog owner told to report incident to the police.
  • {Redacted} other dogs worrying stock, chasing ponies and jumping around cattle laid down. Walker became aggressive after being asked to get his dogs under control.
  • Commoner had a young calf chased by a lurcher. The calf was exhausted and would have been killed by the dog had he not been there the see the dog off. The dog was being walked by a {Redacted} dog walker.
  • Commoner out to remove cow believed involved in incident on 19/7 was unable to get to the cow as she was being circled by two large husky type dogs, owner arrived 15 minutes later and called off the dogs.
  • Dog v donkey. Both animals died.

[**] https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media-centre/2021/march/the-kennel-club-welcomes-wyre-forest-district-council-s-decision/

Praise by KC for Wyre Forest increasing number of dogs per walker from 3 to 6, 31 March 2021:

“The maximum number of dogs a person can walk in a controlled manner depends on a number of factors relating to the dog walker and the dogs being walked as well as the location or time of the walk and therefore we don’t believe introducing blanket limits on the number of dogs walked is the best solution. Furthermore, placing a limit on the number of dogs a person can walk risks penalising responsible dog owners simply due to the number of dogs they own, rather than their ability to keep their dogs under control.

“The Kennel Club would recommend local authorities instead use “dogs on lead by direction” orders and targeted measures such as acceptable behaviour contracts and community protection orders to address people who don’t have control of the dogs they are walking.”

[] https://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/app/uploads/2020/03/New-Forest-Professional-Dog-Walkers-Charter.pdf

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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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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 spaces 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 Spaces 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.

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 Series on PSPOs:–

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

Public Spaces Protection Orders And The New Forest : What are PSPO’s and what can they do for the Forest?

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

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

[*] 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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