EMPTY campsites should be opened on weekends to help stop verge parking across the New Forest, a leading commoner has suggested.
A huge influx of visitors has created access problems for emergency services, residents and Forestry workers as car parks across the national park area regularly reach capacity, warned Forest pony breeder and commoner Lyndsey Stride at a recent meeting of the Verderers’ Court.
As reported in the A&T, Camping in the Forest announced last month it will not open the campsites this year. It runs sites on Forestry England land at Hollands Wood, Setthorns, Holmsley, Ocknell, Long Beech, Ashurst, Denny Wood, Roundhill and Matley Wood.
To fix the problem of verge parking, Ms Stride urged the verderers and Forestry England to negotiate the opening of unused Forest campsites for parking during the weekends.
She said: “The campsites are empty, they have roads and hardstanding in many places. They can be locked at night and during the week when demand is low, and can be easily policed by rangers and keepers.
“People park on the verges because the car parks are too small to accommodate the massive demand. Telling people to go to a different car park if it is full is pointless if every car park for five miles is full.”
She added: “This weekend every car park on the Bolderwood road was full, with significant double verge-parking at Millyford Bridge, which we have never seen before.
“Every car park on the Beaulieu Road was full, with chaos at Bolton’s Bench and Denny campsite. No doubt these scenes were replicated across the Forest.”
Ms Stride commended the national park authority and Forestry England for their efforts in deterring verge parking though social media campaigns, but pointed out the New Forest represented a safe space for recreation and the visitors will keep coming.
She said: “Nothing will change over the coming months with social distancing in place, children unable to go to football training, families unable to meet at home and staycations promoted by the government.”
She declared: “While there is constant criticism of the general public, who simply want somewhere to go to get out of the town where there is no space and few places to play, there seems to be no real response to the problems locally.
“Keepers and rangers are run ragged and a new normal is being established with many visitors damaging and destroying that which they have come to enjoy – often without even knowing that their actions are causing harm.”
It was suggested that Holmsley, Ashurst and Hollands Wood campsites could all be opened for car parking and weekend picnicking.
Ms Stride added it was time for local organisations to work together to become more responsive to the pressures on the Forest.