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Claims overgrazing a 'major problem' in New Forest made during House of Lords debate

THE New Forest is being “massively overgrazed”, according to peers debating proposed new environment laws in the House of Lords.

Lord Goldsmith and Lord Redesdale both raised concerns as they pored over details of the environment bill.

“The New Forest, for example, is one of the most beautiful environments on earth but it is massively overgrazed,” Lord Goldsmith said.

The concerns of overgrazing have already sparked changes to the Basic Payments Scheme
The concerns of overgrazing have already sparked changes to the Basic Payments Scheme

“There are things that we need to do in order to change the incentives. If the incentive today is that you pay £400 or thereabouts for a head of cattle if they are grazed in the New Forest, then of course there are going to be lots of cattle in the New Forest overgrazing.

“The same is true of ponies, whose numbers have soared to unsustainable levels.”

Lord Redesdale said he had lived in the district, adding: “I can quite see that that is a major problem.”

Concerns of overgrazing have sparked changes to the Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) of annual funding to commoners.

They have now been divorced from the number of animals turned out after figures from the verderers revealed that in 2020 there were 13,628 cattle, ponies and donkeys marked to graze on the New Forest and its commons. That was up from 8,880 animals in 2015 – a 65% increase.

Now the Rural Payments Agency will allocate to each commoner who has claimed BPS in the New Forest a reference amount based on the maximum number of marking fees they declared in any year between 2015 and 2020. It has been welcomed by the Commoners Defence Association.

The government said the environment bill would clean up the country’s air, restore natural habitats and increase biodiversity.

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