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Forest rule breakers could face £100 fines under new Public Space Protection Order

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OFF-TRACK cyclists, owners of out-of-control dogs and people using barbecues in the New Forest could all face fines of £100 under potential new rules to tackle anti-social behaviour.

The Forest could soon be covered by a Public Space Protection Order, which would also prohibit parking on verges and the use of electric-powered bikes.

It may also be wielded to prevent the public from feeding commoners’ animals and tackle the owners of out-of-control dogs worrying livestock.

Barbecues are regularly banned in the open Forest
Barbecues are regularly banned in the open Forest

The issue was raised during a meeting of the verderers’ committee in July, when it emerged Official Verderer Lord Manners had contacted national park authority chairman Gavin Parker and New Forest District Council leader Cllr Edward Heron to push for the introduction of a PSPO.

A report of the committee minutes revealed: “Various other areas now have PSPOs in place, including parts of Dorset, and, following the Saddleworth Moor fires, the High Peak District. The Official Verderer felt the introduction of an order which protected the Forest would receive broad support from the public.”

Initially introduced in the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014, PSPOs are used as a tool to tackle anti-social behaviour when it is having a detrimental effect on residents’ quality of life, or is persistent or unreasonable.

Those in breach of the rules may be issued with £100 fixed penalty notices, although in most circumstances advice would be given in the first instance.

Enforcement could be undertaken by a number of authorities including the police, community support officers, council staff, NPA staff and Forestry England (FE) rangers.

Cyclists who keep to the tracks will be fine
Cyclists who keep to the tracks will be fine

But FE has pointed out that there would be costs associated with a PSPO, both in terms of enforcement and administration, and the backing of police and crime commissioner Donna Jones would be essential.

Verderers clerk Sue Westwood confirmed that a group of several Forest organisations was currently looking into the feasibility of adopting an order and considering the areas it could cover.

“A small minority of people just won’t listen even when they have had the rules explained to them,” she said. “It can be very difficult to deal with these people so this order could be a useful tool for that.

“For the most part, when you explain to people why they shouldn’t be doing something they stop, but sadly there is a minority who think the rules just don’t apply to them.”

An FE spokesperson added: “For some time now, Forest organisations have been looking at a range of potential measures to address anti-social behaviours carried out by a small minority of people who spend time here.

“The group are exploring a range of options and it is too early to comment on the likely outcome of this process.”

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