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New Forest National Park Authority agrees rules to control pop-up campsites

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NEW rules stopping New Forest landowners from launching pop-up campsites without permission have been labelled “heavy-handed” by one operator before they come into force later this year.

The directive, agreed by national park authority members, means certain campsites within the park boundaries must get the green light from officials and will no longer be able to operate for 28 days under permitted development rights.

The change has been prompted by concern from local residents and parish councils over the impact on communities and the environment from the rise in campsites within the national park, partly sparked by more UK holidays during the pandemic.

There are at least 12 known pop-up sites known to the NPA, with pitch numbers ranging from just a dozen to as many as 90
There are at least 12 known pop-up sites known to the NPA, with pitch numbers ranging from just a dozen to as many as 90

At a recent NPA meeting, the impact on some villages was described as a “nightmare”.

The NPA said there are at least 12 known pop-up sites, with pitch numbers ranging from just a dozen to as many as 90.

The Forest is thought to have more than three times the number of camping and touring caravan beds per kilometre than other national parks, it said.

However, a pop-up-campsite owner, who asked not to be named, said the move was “heavy-handed” as their style of pitches were vastly outnumbered by those provided in the heart of the national park by the main Camping in the Forest sites, owned by Forestry England.

They told the A&T: “I think it’s something they’re doing that’s overzealous because there are so few small campsites like us.

“As much as we would like to control the amount of visitors – it’s a national park and they have to be protected – we must accept that people want to come here.”

Anthony Climpson, chief executive of tourism group Go New Forest, admitted there had been “uncertainty” among operators about extra regulation but backed the idea as a way to improve facilities for visitors.

He said: “Go New Forest has worked with the NPA over the last year to bring this policy about. In essence, the NPA has committed to supporting all our business throughout the process and we very much welcome this policy now for pop-up campsites.

“It’s not about restraint of trade – it’s about ensuring we have appropriate camping facilities in the New Forest.”

It will be a change from current rules in which, under national permitted development rights, temporary campsites can currently operate for 28 days a year without planning permission.

During the pandemic this figure was extended to 56 days to help businesses recover.

Under the incoming rules, all new and larger existing sites within the park boundaries will require planning approval, with an opportunity for planners to set out appropriate conditions.

It means that from 30th September permission will be required for temporary campsites with at least 51 pitches operating for 28 days, and any 28-day campsites established after 1st March 2020.

Gordon Bailey, chair of the NPA’s planning committee, said: “The New Forest is already one of the most visited national parks in England, and it is vital we protect the very thing that people come here to enjoy.

“The new national park-wide Article 4 Direction does not necessarily stop temporary campsites being established – only that they require planning permission in the future.

“The new guidelines don’t affect smaller temporary campsites which have been operating for a number of years, only new and larger sites.”

He added: “Given the range and scale of internationally-protected nature conservation sites in the New Forest and on its coast, these legal considerations are particularly important in the national park.”

Last autumn a public consultation took place to help inform the NPA’s decision when a wide range of respondents including residents, organisations, campsite operators and key stakeholders were able to have their say.

Most, including all 12 of the town and parish councils, supported the change along with the RSPB, and the verderers.

Objectors made up 20% of respondents, with 9% not expressing a preference.

Prior to the change the NPA will provide guidance to help landowners meet the separate requirements of habitat regulations.

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