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Verderers want urgent talks with NPA over plan to move New Forest campsites

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THE verderers will seek urgent talks with the national park authority to plan how several campsites can be relocated away from the open Forest.

Blaming an ever-increasing number of conflicts between campers and grazing livestock, the verderers have now warned that without drastic action the future of commoning could be threatened.

The issue relating to nine local campsites run by Camping in the Forest (CITF) under a licence agreement with Forestry England, was previously raised by Charlotte Lines, chair of the Commoners Defence Association, who asked the verderers to support its calls for the end of open Forest camping.

Setthorns campsite in the New Forest
Setthorns campsite in the New Forest

The issue was discussed at length during a recent verderers committee meeting when it was agreed the campsites had become “incompatible” with commoning and the New Forest Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

A report of the meeting acknowledged: “Whilst fencing may help reduce conflicts between animals and camping, it will do nothing to protect the SSSI land could result in an even greater negative effect.

“Temporary fencing would inevitably become permanent.”

Forestry England has pointed out that any loss of income resulting from the closure of campsites would impact on its ability to undertake management work which was essential to the SSSI and commoning.

However, it has also emerged that CITF has a 75-year lease agreement with Forestry England dating back to 2005, which relates to the sites at Hollands Wood, Setthorns, Holmsley, Ocknell, Long Beech, Ashurst, Denny Wood, Roundhill and Matley Wood.

As a standard commercial agreement it can only be revoked if CITF commits a major breach of its lease conditions.

Official Verderer Lord Manners agreed to seek a meeting with the NPA to discuss the potential relocation of open Forest campsites.

CITF has pledged to “strengthen” the message it communicates to visitors in an effort to minimise the opportunity for potential incidents involving livestock.

As reported in the A&T, it has offered to meet with the CDA and the verderers and said it had “considerable experience” over 10 years of operating in the Forest where it managed sites with “safety and environmental considerations at the forefront”.

A spokesperson for Forestry England, which oversees the Crown lands where the campsites are located, has said it was “committed to protecting the New Forest” and was in talks with the verderers about their concerns.

It also asked for “further evidence” from the CDA to substantiate its concerns.

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