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Patrols to hit New Forest as surge in visitors expected after lockdown eases

Many Forest-goers defied the ban on barbecues last year (picture: HFRS)
Many Forest-goers defied the ban on barbecues last year (picture: HFRS)

A PATROL force of public officials and volunteers will be on duty in the New Forest to combat problems expected from an anticipated upsurge in visitors when the national lockdown begins to lift next week.

Civic and tourism chiefs have drawn up a plan in a bid to avoid problems which occurred when restrictions were eased in 2020 – such as increased litter, anti-social behaviour and traffic congestion.

On Monday the “stay at home” rule will end, permitting travel outside of residents’ home areas, and outdoor gatherings will be allowed of up to six people or two households.

At visitor hotspots in the New Forest there will be increased foot patrols by staff from Forestry England, the national park authority and the district council, boosted by extra volunteer rangers.

There are planned to be regular litter-picks, more car park signage and strict enforcement of the ban on barbeques and fires in all New Forest car parks and on Crown lands.

There will also be a joint visitor information campaign and targeted message drops to discourage visitors from feeding and petting livestock and promote animal safety.

Greater support has been pledged for New Forest commoners so they can operate with as little disruption as possible, such as extra patrols at the pony drifts to keep people clear.

The plan has been formed by Forestry England, the NPA, NFDC and tourism body Go New Forest, with the support of the Verderers and Hampshire police and fire services. They have agreed to meet weekly in the summer to review progress.

They are also encouraging local communities and businesses to get involved by publicising the New Forest Code and becoming so-called New Forest ambassadors to report problems.

Forestry England, which announced the plan, was unable to say how much the measures would cost, nor how many extra staff would be involved. Patrols in the New Forest would vary depending on the scale of visitor pressure, said a spokesperson.

NPA chair Prof. Gavin Parker said: “The New Forest is truly an amazing place and getting outside is a great way to boost our mood and our physical health. However, this cannot be at the expense of this precious place, which is a living, working Forest.

“Last year we saw some truly shocking impacts on countryside sites including the massive fire nearby in Wareham Forest caused by barbecues.

“We also saw an increase in litter, which can harm the grazing animals which are so vital in shaping the landscape and maintaining rare Forest habitats.”

Official Verderer Lord Manners said: “The last 12 months have seen unprecedented recreational pressure on the Forest. The verderers welcome and support the additional actions being taken this year to manage this issue.”

Outdoor facilities and sports venues, including golf courses, are also able to thrown open their doors on Monday.

On 12th April, all shops and community facilities can reopen, restaurants and pubs can resume serving customers sitting outdoors and members of the same household are permitted to take a holiday in the UK in self-contained accommodation.

A domestic holiday boom has been predicted, which would provide a welcome boost to the struggling New Forest hospitality and tourism industries.

Go New Forest chief executive Anthony Climpson said the sector provides up to 20% of the district’s jobs and contribute up to £500m to the economy.

He added: “Visitors who are properly informed about the Forest will not only understand how to care for this very special place, but they are much more likely to invest in it both emotionally and financially.”

NFDC’s executive head of operations, Colin Read, pledged the authority would “continue to deal with the minority who fly tip and litter”.

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