Long-held New Forest 10 event shut down to protect wildlife
FOREST regulators have shut down a popular charity run to avoid disturbance to ground-nesting birds, prompting organisers to allege they are being discriminated against.
New Forest Runners have held the 10-mile summer event out of New Park in Brockenhurst for the past 35 years – although Covid put paid to this and last year's run.
However, the next one planned in July is now also in peril as Forestry England has refused to grant a permit for the next planned event in July due to tighter rules around environmental impact assessments and the event falling within the ground-nesting bird season between February and August.
Although much of the route sticks to the roads, there is a section which takes up to 1,000 runners along the gravel tracks of the Forest. Oakhaven Hospice has been one of the event's previous beneficiaries.
Steve Hull, chair of the club, told the A&T: "All of a sudden an event we've been holding for decades has been cancelled and must fall by the wayside.
"It's very frustrating for us, particularly when we see that the New Forest Show is to go ahead at New Park and in July during the breeding season.
"This is an event that, although I'm fully in favour of, attracts 100,000 people over multiple days and all the traffic that entails.
"In fact, the vehicles will use the gravel tracks to exit the site. It really feels like we're being discriminated against."
However, Forestry England said the use of New Park itself is not the issue, rather the tracks accessed from there.
A spokesperson said that before permitting any event within the New Forest, the organisation is required by law to carry out a habitats regulation assessment, the criteria of which has recently been strengthened by Natural England.
“The New Forest is home to some of the UK’s rarest habitats and wildlife, which is protected by law," she said. "The restrictions mean major events must not take place on protected habitats within the New Forest during the ground-nesting bird season.
"This has affected a number of events and we have been working closely with organisers to help them meet these new requirements, often by finding alternative dates or locations."
The club has considered relocating the event but feel it would lose its appeal. Steve said: "It's called the New Forest 10, we're the New Forest Runners and we want to hold it in the Forest.
"We have looked at private estates but it's not feasible. This is not a money-making event – we marshal it ourselves and all the profits go to charity.
"These gravel tracks accommodate people, cyclists and horse riders 365 days of the year. Our event would see runners on the Forest for a maximum 20-25 minutes."