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Temporary New Forest campsites face crackdown over wildlife concerns

Camping tents at campground during daytime in the forest
Camping tents at campground during daytime in the forest

POP-UP campsites in the New Forest are facing a crackdown by the national park authority, despite warnings the move could worsen the problem of wild camping.

Providers of temporary operations of up to a month now face having to pay annual fees to offset the impact on the local habitat, and stricter rules for disposing of waste water.

Under the plans, those running larger pop-up sites with 50 or more pitches would also be stripped of permitted development rights and have to get planning permission to continue.

The number of temporary campsites has increased in recent years after the government allowed them to operate for 28 days a year without planning permission. When the pandemic hit, that was raised to 56 days to help the outdoor hospitality sector recover.

But that extension, alongside rapidly increasing visitor numbers, prompted concerns among NPA members over how the sites and their users could disturb protected habitats.

At their latest meeting they said measures were needed to ensure campsites complied with habitat regulations, a condition of all permitted development rights, especially because of the anticipated influx of tourists.

However, campsite operators Teddy Powell and Rebecca Nicholson have lodged objections to the plan, which will have to go out later to public consultation.

Mr Powell said his camping business helps underwrite his sheep farm and had been developed after talks with the NPA last year, which had not suggested further incoming rules.

Ms Nicholson said her 30-unit South Coast Glamping business on a field at Mr Powell’s farm was an “exemplary” site that catered mainly for “novice campers” unable to bring their own toilet facilities.

She argued that the closure of the main campsites in the New Forest last year had caused waste problems and led to the banning of barbecues.

She added: “2021 will see a great increase of visitors to the New Forest, especially in light of the international travel restrictions. If organised private sites are not allowed, surely it will only increase the amount of people wild camping in the Forest?”

NPA director of strategy and planning, Steve Avery, insisted it was not about “closing down” existing sites but ensuring they had “proper safeguards” in place.

There are currently 10 pop-up sites in the Forest, of which four have 50 or more pitches, he added.

Members backed the new, tighter regulations and noted they would likely come into force in 2022, so providers had time to speak about their concerns with the NPA.

The only member to object was Cllr Alexis McEvoy who said it was unfair to establish rules “retrospectively” against existing campsites.

Leo Randall, NPA planning committee chair, said: “The New Forest National Park has more than three times the number of camping and touring caravan bed spaces per square kilometre than the average of all other English national parks.

“Given that this small geographical area is already well served by existing camping and caravan sites, we believe our proposals strike an appropriate balance between the need to protect the New Forest environment while recognising the important role of tourism in the local economy.”

The proposals will be subject to a public consultation before a final draft is put to NPA members for a decision later.

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