Burley Wagon Rides under threat after homeowners make privacy complaints
ONE of the oldest tourist institutions in the New Forest, Burley Wagon Rides, is under threat after a dozen homeowners complained against it.
The attraction, which has been running for 45 years, was taken over in March last year by Neil and Julia Kitchen.
They were told by Forestry England that as new owners they had to apply for a permit costing £625 to continue operating.
But when they did, several homeowners living in Church Lane objected to them having one, claiming the wagon is ruining the track.
The residents also complained that passengers could see into their properties, took photos of their houses and were making too much noise.
As a result, the couple have only been granted a temporary permit by FE until the end of May and have been warned they may have to drop their popular Church Lane ride in order to operate for the rest of the year.
The angry couple have now launched a petition which has been signed by nearly 400 supporters.
Mrs Kitchen said: “If we can’t do the 20-minute Church Lane ride we will go bankrupt. It represents half of our bookings. We were only allowed to operate for a few days last year because of Covid so we are really struggling.
“It is our ‘witches trail’ and there is not an alternative one we can do that equals it."
Reacting to the complaints, she said: “Burley Wagon Rides have been running for nearly half a century with no problems.
“We aren’t taking stag parties down there! It is families and all they do is chat.”
As a result of the objections, the couple have had to fork out £7,000 for a new, lower wagon.
Mr Kitchen said: “It is ridiculous. People have to remain seated during the ride and most of the hedges are so high along there you can’t see anything.”
The couple have paid £400 towards this year's and last year’s maintenance of Church Lane which is on Crown land although residents are responsible for its upkeep.
Jeremy Hodgkins, who lives on Church Lane, told the A&T that the complaints had been made because of “invasion of privacy”.
He said: “People on the rides can see into people's kitchens, homes, gardens.
“Since the business was taken over the frequency of rides along here have increased.
“No one wants anyone to go out of business, but a solution has to be found.”
Anthony Climpson, of tourism group Go New Forest, backed Mr and Mrs Kitchen, saying:“Burley Wagon Rides has been a successful, unique and highly enjoyable visitor experience, operating without issue for over 40 years.
"It also brings lots of added value to the other businesses in the village. So it’s therefore very difficult to understand how the recent demands of a handful of residents have been able to push this important feature of village life to the verge of bankruptcy.”
A spokesperson for FE said that it is working on finding a "suitable, sustainable solution so that Burley wagons can continue to use the lane”.
They added: “We have no objection to the operation of the business, and we have supported it for many years.”