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Commoners’ Defence Association calls gravel to be removed from A35 laybys

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NATURE will be left to reclaim popular New Forest parking areas closed off in a land-swap deal to unlock the £5.5m replacement of Holmsley bridge.

As reported in the A&T, gravelled patches by the A35 at Markway Hill between Holmsley and Lyndhurst, and on the A337 at Cadnam are being returned to Forestry England by Hampshire County Council.

The agreement is to compensate for the loss of habitat resulting from a quarter-mile realignment of the A35 at Holmsley.

Dragons' teeth have blocked off several gravel sites on the A35
Dragons' teeth have blocked off several gravel sites on the A35

Now those areas, often used by truckers and walkers, have been blocked with wooden dragons’ teeth – but the gravel will remain, sparking criticism from commoners who urged them to be actively restored to grassland.

At a meeting of the Verderers’ Court, Charlotte Lines, chair of the Commoners’ Defence Association (CDA), called for the removal of the hoggin – a mix of clay, gravel and sand.

She declared: “We are not in agreement that the hoggin should be left in situ at these sites. Experience has shown us that this approach doesn’t work.

“Areas which have been left to self-regenerate have seen vegetation struggle to establish as it burns off in the summer months.”

She said Natural England and Forestry England had previously agreed to remove hoggin and concrete at other sites including Stoney Cross, Bentley, Beaulieu Aerodrome and Leadon Hall.

She continued: “We can see no reason why the same approach of removing the hoggin, and reusing on other car parks within the Forest, cannot be applied at the area at Cadnam cricket pitch and some sites along the A35 to give vegetation a better chance of establishing.”

Ms Lines also asked for the CDA be included in any future discussions about compensatory habitats and grazing.

Charlotte Lines - chair of commoners defence association (47820107)
Charlotte Lines - chair of commoners defence association (47820107)

HCC cabinet member Cllr Edward Heron told the A&T that the areas were never official laybys, adding: “I can confirm that any contaminated materials have been removed and the gravel areas beyond the dragons’ teeth loosened and raked over.

“This will enable nature to take its course, with species of vegetation specific to the New Forest re-seeding naturally over time to restore the green space.

“This fulfils a requirement by Natural England who also stipulated that no topsoil or seeding should be added.”

The national park authority has confirmed that HCC met the requirements of a landscape and ecology plan which suggests 100% natural regeneration of the areas.

This will involve visits four to five times a year to check the growth rates of vegetation.

A spokesperson for Forestry England said: “We understand the CDA’s concerns about the level of hoggin and we’ll monitor these parcels of land, which now form part of the open Forest, and work with local partners to improve the regeneration of vegetation.”

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