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Vehicle parking restrictions imposed by Forestry England set to scupper spectating at Boxing Day point-to-point finish

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THE traditionally noisy atmosphere of the New Forest’s point-to-point races could go quiet this year with crowds shrunk by restrictions on vehicle numbers.

Forestry England (FE) has granted the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society a licence but imposed a limit of 250 vehicles at the finish, so it can comply with habitats regulations.

Each rider – thought to number more than 80 this year – has been given two vehicle passes: one for their transport vehicle and another for family and friends.

Action from the 2019 event (photo: Steve West)
Action from the 2019 event (photo: Steve West)

There is usually a sizeable crowd at the finish but since those who do not have a pass are prohibited from parking there this year, many race-goers may miss out.

A major highlight in the commoning calendar, the point-to-point involves racers navigating across open country, with the starting point kept secret until close to setting off. The finish on Monday 27th December has so far been described publicly by organisers only as “south of the A31”.

Explaining the decision, an FE spokesperson said: “Measures at the start and finish points for participants and their support vehicles have been put in place to ensure they can park in the agreed parking areas, and to avoid any damaging overspill parking.

“All other visitors can park at nearby Forestry England car parks.

“The point-to-point organisers, Forestry England and Natural England have been working closely to ensure this year’s event can meet the new requirements and take place as planned.”

The licence was applied for earlier this year but granted only last week by FE.

Explaining the delay, the FE spokesperson pointed out the New Forest was an “internationally important place for nature and a highly protected area” and it received applications for more than 3,000 events in the district every year.

Approving all would be “unsustainable on such a fragile landscape”, she said, adding that before permitting any event FE was legally required to carry out a habitat regulations assessment (HRA).

There are seven point-to-point races scheduled for this year over 11 categories, including veterans’ and children’s contests.

James Young, chair of the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society, confirmed the vehicle restriction to the A&T.

He said: “This means that access to the finish will be largely limited to competitors who are each receiving two passes per entry and officials. You will appreciate it takes a considerable number of people to organise the event.

“The society remains committed to working with both Natural England and FE to ensure that this traditional Forest highlight continues for the future.”

On Facebook, race supporters decried the vehicle restriction.

One said authorities were “ruining what has been an age-old Forest tradition because they don’t want their prissy road verges muddied!

“When are the old Forest folk going to stand up and call the shots instead of being dictated to by incomers?”

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