CUSTOMERS of a new shop at a proposed community hub in East Boldre could be attacked by hungry ponies seeking food, according to the verderers who are objecting to the plans.
They claimed that the idea of a shop where there will be interaction between people and ponies is “potentially fraught with danger”.
In a letter of objection to plans to transform the current village hall to include a shop, the officials say that as a result of people “regrettably” feeding livestock in the Forest, ponies now associate carrier bags with food and are likely to go after people carrying one.
The verderers point out that livestock are already attracted to the current building where animals shelter in its shade.
They stated: “Regrettably members of the public do feed ponies when they should not and the ponies often associate carrier bags with food.
“This can cause the ponies to act in an aggressive fashion, posing a danger to users of the proposed shop car park.”
They also say that having bins in the car park will “exacerbate” the problem, as would outside seating.
There have been more than 100 letters of support for the plan to replace the “outdated” village hall.
But the verderers said that usage of the new building could pose a “significant adverse and detrimental impact” on the area around it.
They stated that it is “highly unusual for a building like this to be located in the open Forest”, and believe it could cause light pollution at night.
The verderers also claimed that Forestry England was not allowed to license a commercial shop in the open Forest and so “it cannot be used as a retail outlet”.
The letter ended by saying that if the plan were given the green light it should be run by a not-for-profit community trust. It also warned there could be issues surrounding the insurance of the building and ongoing maintenance.
If approved, the new building would house a large kitchen, storerooms, eight toilets, and a lift. The original hall would be enlarged by the addition of a small, two-storey extension increasing seating capacity by around 20%.
There would be a mezzanine area where the stage lighting and sound equipment would be housed, plus a four-metre, roll-down cinema screen fitted on the stage and a high-definition projector for film nights, with live streaming from London theatres.
A small theatre dressing room and office would be built above the main entrance for amateur dramatics, and it would also be available for private hire.