New Forest car parks closure warning

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Longslade Heath car park near Sway

SOME New Forest car parks could be shut as part of an ongoing high-profile recreation masterplan, a Brockenhurst councillor has warned.

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Cllr Harry Oram was talking about the new recreation management strategy, which has been promoted as the first overhaul of the way activity in the district is controlled since the 1970s.

As reported in the A&T, it is being drawn up jointly by bodies including New Forest District Council, the national park authority, Hampshire County Council, Forestry Commission, the verderers, and Natural England.

Cllr Oram told Brockenhurst Parish Council the Forestry Commission (FC) was leading the review of the car parks, adding: “I do not know any of the details but it’s possible that some car parks will be enlarged, some will be made smaller and some will be closed.

“Those car parks were designed in the 1970s and at that time recreation was considered to be very important, and the conservation aspect of what was going to be done was never fully considered as the conservation lobby at the time was quite weak.

“But now the climate has changed. The conservationists will have a bigger say.”

The matter arose after two local residents attended the latest meeting and complained about cars being driven late at night in New Forest car parks and causing a nuisance and damage.

Cllr Oram said the FC had acknowledged it needed to “step up” its enforcement of local by-laws.

He also lamented the loss of the keepers in the Forest, pointing out they had worked unsociable hours.

Recently, NFDC cabinet member Cllr James Binns was forced to deny the recreation masterplan had “stalled” despite it being a year-and-a-half since work on it began.

An eight-week public consultation in 2017 attracted 1,500 responses but a draft version is yet to be published.

As reported in the A&T, research for the new strategy suggested there were currently more than 15-million recreational visits made to the national park each year.

Possible changes include shutting public toilets and tracks, and trying to divert people away from the most sensitive parts of the national park.

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