Commoning fears over loss of back-up grazing for New Forest ponies
VITAL back-up grazing for New Forest animals is being lost as developers seek green space to compensate for large-scale housing schemes, a leading commoner has warned.
The alert was raised by New Forest Commoners’ Defence Association (CDA) chair Charlotte Lines, and follows the tightening of rules on how the mitigation of nitrate pollution is done for major construction projects.
Waste water from dwellings is one of the major sources of nitrates, which can harm habitats when they run into water.
In areas with environmental protection, such as the Solent, developers must provide compensation, which can include setting aside land with the aim to make major schemes “nitrate-neutral”.
As a direct result, Ms Lines said, developers were buying land for mitigation purposes and taking it out of agricultural use.
She warned: “This has led to back-up grazing being lost for commoning use.
“Whilst we are not fully aware of the scale of this problem we are concerned that in an area where land is at a premium in terms of quantity and affordability this could have a significant impact on the commoning community.
“In addition to land use changes for nutrient mitigation, we are also aware of cases where back-up grazing has been lost due to planning policy requirement for biodiversity net gain.
“We also have concerns that soon we will also see land use change to offset carbon emissions.”
She urged the verderers to raise the issue with local planning authorities including New Forest District Council, the national park authority and BCP Council.
She said while the CDA understood the need to address the climate emergency, it should not be at the expense of commoning and back-up grazing, which should be urgently protected through local planning policy.
As reported in the A&T, the issue stems from new legal guidance given by Natural England, following a ruling by the European Court of Justice.
In 2020 Defra launched a £3.9m scheme that allows developers to buy ‘nitrate credits’ to offset impact from their developments if they are not nitrate neutral.