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Friends of the New Forest's 'grave concerns' over campsites' future as Forest England look for new operator



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A NEW Forest conservation watchdog has said it has “grave concerns” over the way local campsites could be run under a new lease agreement.

As reported by the A&T, Forestry England is set to regain control of 10 locations run by Camping in the Forest next year in a deal with former majority partner the Camping and Caravan Club.

But FE will not run the campsites itself and is in the process of selecting a new operator which would be granted a 10-year lease rather than the former 65-year agreement.

Hollands Wood is one of 10 campsites to be taken over by the Forestry Commission
Hollands Wood is one of 10 campsites to be taken over by the Forestry Commission

It said the arrangement would “balance the benefits of camping” with looking after the environment.

But conservation group the Friends of the New Forest said it has “grave concerns” over the terms of this commercial tenancy.

The Friends have raised a particular issue over a reference to “year round camping” which they argue should be limited to allow nature a chance to recover.

Concerns are also raised about a clause that would allow a future operator to remove a percentage of trees each year from the campsites.

In a letter to FE, the charity argued the process is potentially unlawful because it failed to have proper regard of the special circumstances of the New Forest.

Friends chair John Ward said: “We are concerned that the documentation accompanying the heads of terms of the tender fails to clearly advise prospective campsite operators of their obligations arising from the status of the New Forest as a national park, a SSSI, a Natura 2000 site and a site designated under the Ramsar Convention.

“We have requested that Forestry England suspend the current process of appointment and take time to work with partners to review their strategy for camping in the Forest.”

A spokesperson for FE said the full acquisition of the campsite business will provide it with greater control and the ability to “balance the benefits of camping” with the “sensitivity of their management”.

“The tender process is the first step to securing an operator who can work with us to move camping in the New Forest to a more favourable position for the environment, campers and local economy.

“In selecting an operator, we are looking for an organisation that has the right credentials to work in a way that is sensitive to location, provides a quality management service for bookings in 2023, and has a vision and appetite to work with others towards resolving the longstanding issues in the New Forest to benefit the place and all interested parties.”

They added: “It should be noted that despite significant effort and cost to consider relocating campsites in the past, these discussions did not reach a solution due to opposition on various

grounds.

“We hope this time around all parties will be able to work together on a shared, actionable plan.”



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