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Friends of the New Forest wants Forestry England to close Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech campsites

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THE New Forest’s leading conservation group has made fresh calls for Forestry England to permanently close at least three campsites accused of damaging highly protected habitats.

The Friends of the New Forest said FE should act on 2001 advice from Natural England and work towards shutting campsites at Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech.

FE said in a statement it was working to protect the Forest but was looking “longer term” at some closures or relocations.

Hollands Wood campsite is one of those affected
Hollands Wood campsite is one of those affected

As reported by the A&T, FE will regain control of 10 local campsites run by Camping in the Forest (CiTF) next year after it struck a deal with former majority partner the Camping and Caravan Club.

Speaking at a meeting of the Verderers’ Court, Brian Tarnoff, of the Friends of the New Forest, said it “welcomed the more direct role” FE would take.

However, he said the charity remained concerned FE was failing to meet its legal obligations under the Habitat Regulations by allowing damage to the Forest to continue.

He pointed to Natural England’s 2001 SAC Management Plan for the New Forest which he said highlighted the “unfavourable decline” of Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) pasture woodland at Hollands Wood, Denny Wood and Longbeech campsites.

Mr Tarnoff declared: “Those pasture woodlands have seen a further two decades of decline. Our 2010 survey showed they retained less than 50% canopy than comparable woodland.”

Claiming that FE “blithely ignored” the prescription for closure, and had even planned to add extra infrastructure and a mobile shop at Hollands Wood, Mr Tarnoff that the three campsites “marked for closure” should be phased out as quickly as possible.

He added that an impact assessment should be undertaken for the remaining campsites and new operators should only be licenced to operate for a maximum of five years, pending the outcome of these investigations.

The Commoners Defence Association also joined calls for tighter controls on campsites, with chair Charlotte Lines suggesting the camping season be shortened and pitches reduced.

She declared: “Within the areas of the campsites there is a huge detrimental impact on grazing, and an increased urbanisation of these campsites is changing the very fabric of the Forest.”

Highlighting incidents between animals and campers, Ms Lines said: “In recent times the seriousness and number of these accidents seems to be increasing. These incidents have potential to threaten the continuing practice of commoning in the Forest.”

A spokesperson for FE said the Deputy Surveyor had recently updated the Verderers’ Court on the management of its New Forest campsites and was now focused on selecting a new operator in time for the 2023 season, which would be granted a 10-year lease rather than the former 65-year agreement.

The spokesperson continued: “We are working with Forest organisations to ensure the current campsite management plans, in place to maintain and improve habitat condition, are implemented properly.

“In the medium term we will review these plans and work with partners to consider other ways to improve condition through adjustment in approach and practices.”

She added: “Longer term, we will work with local stakeholders to find a sustainable solution and this will include considering a range of options including closure or relocation for some.

“It should be noted that despite significant effort and cost to relocate campsites in the past, these discussions did not reach a solution due to opposition on various grounds.”

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